Comparing the Pio with my Chinese university newspaper

Rensi Ke

Credit: Song
Credit: Song

I applied to be a columnist mainly to explore how it feels to work with an American college newspaper. But a  comparison of The Pioneer and The STU Journal, Shantou University’s newspaper where I worked for my first two university  years as a student reporter, needs more than the  columnist experience for comparison. So I  read all the 12 published issues of  this semester’s Pio.

The first difference that I noticed was  insertion of advertisements regarding the Walla Walla community.

While community news is also considered by The STU Journal‘s editors and reporters when it’s related to volunteer services, it’s usually not read by community members. As a university-sponsored newspaper, more focus is put on academics, extracurricular activities and the university administration.

Besides, since Shantou University is financially supported by Li Kashing, the richest  person in Asia who was born in the Chaoshan area (where my university is located)  and contributed HK $3.1 billion: $38 million: to the founding of the university,  his  annual visits to the university  and  donations to the  community  are always  headlines in the newspaper.

This differences in financial standing is the cause of different focuses between the two newspapers. It’s a tradition  for American college newspapers to  be financially  self-sustaining  through a    subscription revenue model which dates back to  The Dartmouth in the  early 1900s.

Though funded by ASWC, the relatively more self-sustaining Pio does a better job of catering to students’ need for helpful information about the school and the community.

The Back to School issue  devoted a whole page to Walla Walla business listings, and  when Family Weekend and Thanksgiving came up The Pioneer offered an aggregation of traveling tips and dining recipes, which intrigued me.

By  contrast,  The STU Journal is more engaged in addressing campus news. As a student reporter, I  got enormous newsletter assignments about  academic lectures given by visiting professors, scientists and journalists. The only  two community newsletter assignments I got were about Visitors’ Day.

The purpose of fulfilling students’ needs certainly contributes to the Pio’s depth  in exploring the diversity of the student body.

I am amazed by  the  demonstration of  diverse personalities  of the Whitties  by the Pio.    “Six Whitties Who Will Change the World” and the feature stories about Whitman alumni published on Nov. 2 are great examples.

In return, the attention received by  the newspaper further enhances  the interrelationship  between the Pio and  Whitties.

I am also impressed with the liveliness of the Pio-student interaction, varying from the  frequent showcase of  mail and e-mail surveys and letters to the editor.

The STU Journal targets its readers as students, faculty and the school administration, similar with The Pioneer, but the scope of coverage is much smaller. This is caused by not only the limited amount of pages (The STU Journal has only  4 pages per issue)  but also  a longer  production process of two to six weeks, depending on whether we have big news during the period.

Quite a few people have asked me if I have experienced any kind of censorship during  the journalistic experience with my Chinese university newspaper.

There is  definitely a difference in the levels of  censorship between the U.S. and China, even in terms of university/college newspapers.

The STU Journal is under the  supervision of the university’s publicity department, which reviews every issue to  and submits  high-quality reports  for the provincial and national university newspapers appraisals. The STU Journal is among the top three university newspapers in Guangdong province; the winning reports are usually  awarded for their  unique perspectives and in-depth analyses.

Unlike the Pio, The STU Journal’s chief editor is  not a student,  but the appointment decision is made  based on the journalistic expertise of the person.

The STU Journal is cautious in handling  negative campus  news such as the increase of meal prices in the dining hall, or complaints about the slow-speed Internet access.  The STU Journal is active in collecting different opinions from different sides, but reports may be delayed until  problems are  solved.

This is why Chinese university newspapers, like many other Chinese newspapers, tend to give  non-Chinese the impression that in China,   there is no news that is bad news.

Interestingly, that can also be said about The Pioneer.  The only negative news about Whitman I’ve read on in the Pio this semester is  the fall of Whitman’s Princeton Review rankings, but the piece’s  conclusion is that Princeton Review  did  not  offer  a scientific  evaluation  system.  Whitties’ confidence is really impressive!

If it were the case at my university, we would probably wait for a year or  two and  then publish a  newsletter titled, “STU returns to the top of Princeton Review.”