Investigative reporting missing from Daily

The Minnesota Daily is the world’s largest student-produced and student-managed newspaper. Its sports coverage is professional, detailed and informative. The space it devotes to international news and national politics is extensive. Its classifieds provide job seekers and apartment hunters with crucial information. Overall, each issue reflects a high level of dedication, skill and professionalism on the part of editors, writers and staff.

There is one aspect of the Daily, however, that needs greater attention. Since my arrival at the University in 1999, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of serious, in-depth, provocative, investigative reporting in our student newspaper.

Faculty, undergraduates and graduate students rely upon the Daily to hold University administrators accountable for their actions. No other publication is as responsible for coverage of issues immediately relevant to the University community.

There is certainly no lack of interesting and important topics and stories the newspaper could cover. For example, it could investigate ways in which the University impacts our immediate ecosystem.

This summer and fall, the University painted the deck of the Washington Avenue Bridge. Numerous students, including myself, complained about the smell of the paint, and many students suffered from headaches, stomach ailments and difficulty breathing when crossing the bridge.

What kinds of chemicals did the painters use? How harmful were these chemicals to humans? Did any of the paint end up in the river below? Were there alternative, more healthful, environmentally friendly paints available for use?

In addition, the University claims to recycle office paper, plastic and other materials. Everyone sees the square bins, with clear labels around campus. How much of these materials are actually recycled? Do students follow labels when disposing of items? Where does refuse from the University end up?

In addition to investigating environmental issues, the Daily could look into the influence and power of corporations on campus. Why do students have to pay a dollar or more for sodas, bags of chips and candy bars on campus when similar items cost much less at convenience stores and gas stations?

Why do companies like Frito Lay, Coca-Cola and TCF Bank have monopolies on campus? Are there conflicts of interest on the Board of Regents? How many members of the administration directly benefit from the University’s relationship with corporations?

Clearly, the University shares (sells?) student information with many of these companies. I would like to know what the policies are governing this, and what I could do to prevent the sharing of my information with telemarketers, insurance companies, banks and credit card corporations.

The Daily has also largely ignored the PeopleSoft debacle. The University spent millions of dollars for this software system, which has been plagued with problems. Billing statements sent to students are frequently incorrect, especially for those of us who rely on financial aid. Numerous graduate students, including myself, have had to go to Johnston Hall nearly every semester to adjust our statements. In some cases, students have had to pay late fees because of these problems. What, if anything, is the University doing to resolve these issues? Why are billing statements at the University so confusing when compared to statements from other universities?

So, in sum, there are many issues an enterprising student reporter at the Daily could cover. Rather than waiting for stories to fall into their lap, investigative reporters seek out stories and uncover what is hidden. Journalism students interested in making a name for themselves could sink their teeth into a plethora of provocative topics.

Such reporting would inspire, excite and mobilize students. The entire community would benefit from greater student involvement and from challenging misguided, wasteful and perhaps damaging policies and procedures currently ignored at the University.

Jason Eden is a graduate student of history. Send
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