Lasell College has a growing journalism program. Every year, more students arrive on campus with reporting experience and the goal of becoming professional journalists. In the last five years, The 1851 Chronicle has grown from a relative non- entity into a publication that reports on a wide range of stories with reliable frequency.
This is due, in part, to the efforts of Janice Barrett, Chair of Communication and Professor, and Marie Franklin, Associate Professor of Communication, as well as a number of highly dedicated student journalists.
Still, some members of the college’s administration continue to hide the program, and the paper that has been instrumental in its development.
High school seniors interested in pursuing journalism as a career will look at several schools before they decide where to enroll. In the Boston area, they’ll look at B.U., Emerson, and B.C., among others.
Those schools, and countless others, have something that Lasell lacks: a publicly accessible website for their student-run newspapers. For a school that prides itself on its connected learn- ing philosophy, it’s hard to believe that its growing newspaper and journalism program remains alarmingly disconnected.
The concern, shared by administrators re- sponsible for enrollment, seems to be that an ex- ternal website for the paper will scare prospective students away with negative stories about the problems the college faces.
Lasell, like any other college, has problems. The Berkeley Beacon, Emerson’s student newspaper, has a wide range of stories on its site. These include reports on an increase in the number of alcohol poisoning transports, a student who is in contention for the title of Miss Boston, and Em- erson’s handling of a rodent problem
By preventing the 1851 from having a viable online presence, the college is doing a disservice to the journalism program and to the students who work hard to report, edit, and publish the newspaper. It is also doing a disservice to alumni who want to keep tabs on their alma mater beyond the occasional solicitation for donations, as well as the parents who pay tuition. The biggest disservice of all, though, is to the college itself.
It’s hard to convince prospective journalism students that Lasell is a place where they can thrive when its newspaper is not reaching its full potential. The lack of an external 1851 website damages the college’s credibility and carves away at the very foundation upon which Lasell prides itself.
Small bits of progress have been made. The IT Department was gracious in its efforts to help the current staff build a site that is accessible to MyLasell users. These efforts have not gone unappreciated, but it’s simply not enough to validate the connected learning claim.
While print media remains viable, journalism’s future is online. To deprive the students who have chosen to pursue it as a career of the opportunity to write for that platform is a mis- take that will ultimately cripple the program.
The 1851 prides itself on balanced reporting that confronts campus issues, both positive and negative. Admissions pulled the April 2011 issue from its office before last year’s Lasell Day to prevent new students from seeing the 1851 report on academic rigor at Lasell. It was a dishonest response to honest reporting.
Excellent journalism addresses all aspects of the community it covers. A good journalism program adapts to reflect the state of the industry it’s sending students into. The 1851 will continue to provide balanced coverage of Lasell stories, and should be able to do so online.
The above column appeared in the February 2012 edition of The 1851 Chronicle, the Lasell College student newspaper. As a result, that edition was the last to appear only in print, as the paper developed and launched a full website for all future issues.