Final Words: TMN and SGA’s Constant Struggle (Opinion)

Disclaimer: I don’t like to do a lot of opinion articles; I feel as though a media organization should be objective as possible. These topics do not reflect the views of TMN or the Informatics Department at FHSU. Enjoy my last written piece!

 

Hooray! It’s finals week, and for me, a senior, this means it’s time to reflect back on what the last two years have meant to me (I’m a JUCO transfer, so two years is all I needed). For the most part, my time in Hays has been decent. I have had some good times, and some really really… disastrous times. But, in comparison to El Dorado, Kansas (where I went to JUCO) Hays is definitely more interesting and a better place to live. The only thing I can really complain about is having so much tension between the Student Government Association and TMN.

So, before I start this probably villainous sounding rant, I should say that I do respect the students and staff involved in SGA. It would not be possible for students to have a voice on campus without them, and sometimes they do pull through for the students. But, when you are a student who has been producing content for the school website, but most importantly, the TV and Radio station, it can be a kick in the nads when someone says “we don’t ever see your content”. There is some merit to that – the radio station is only online and the link is buried on the website, and the TV station sometimes doesn’t agree with Eagle’s feed to the city of Hays.

But, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are always a search away; but since your feeds are personalized, there is no way to guarantee that TMN will ever show up on your feed. Even paying for a Facebook marketing/ad campaign would not guarantee that. We are starving for content as well – the Media Studies side of the Informatics department is in a transitional phase since our main video teacher left last year. We have a new professor for this academic year, but he is slowly filling the role and we have yet to see a steady stream of content from his students. It may also be good to note that TMN does have a further reach on Facebook than SGA, as shown in the graphic below.

Almost double the reach. But you know, no one sees our content.

But the “we don’t ever see your content” statement is detrimental to people who make content. We slave over our video, audio and web work, spending hours on hours on every aspect of the process. Graphic Design students are the only other students I know of on campus that spend as much time as us (if not more) on projects after school hours. I remember creating our music showcase show “The Wave” and being at Hammond Hall from 12:00 pm on a Monday to around 4 or 5 am Tuesday morning. We did that process at least once a month, sometimes twice. That only accounts for my time, however, while other students will work at Hammond hall many nights a week – every week to get their content done and with quality.

Last week the Convergence Media Lab students (formerly the Television Operations class, which is where “The Wave” was created) held a live broadcast with 4 bands. TMN streamed, publicized it and provided the extra crew for the event. The class also partnered with UAB and ResLife and promoted the event by sitting in the student union several days during the last few weeks. The show went great, and it was one of the best productions I have been a part of since my tenure at FHSU started – but there was something missing.

I made sure to ask the crew to keep an eye out for SGA members to see if they would come out to support TMN and the Convergence Lab students. I think one student said they saw one senator, but ultimately the majority of students that were there were not SGA affiliated. TMN and those students went through all the right channels to promote and host the event, and yet SGA representatives were nowhere to be found. I understand that not every student can make it to every event – and I didn’t assume any members would be in attendance. However, it would help relations between TMN and SGA if they were there, thus showing that both sides were making an effort to mend the divide.

To me, it’s weird to be critical of one organization’s engagement when their own is low as well. Last SGA election had 316 students vote in the election. Now that seems like a good number of students, but the vote was not only for SGA president and vice president. The vote also included a proposed raise in tuition to pay for the new Center for Student Success and an added SGA fee. That is a added $4.55 ($4.00 for the Center, $0.55 for SGA to add a graduate student position and to get out of the allocations process) per credit hour. That means out of 4,712 on-campus students (facts provided by the official FHSU website; https://www.fhsu.edu/quickfacts/) around 7% of students (0.067062818336163 is the real number) voted to increase tuition. How can an organization be so willing to raise tuition when not even 10% of the student body voted on the proposed bill? How can you claim to represent the student body when there is almost no one voting on major issues, or even know what SGA is?

To SGA’s benefit, there is a general problem with engagement with FHSU students. No one knows that better than TMN. Although only 7% voted, that is nowhere close to the numbers that voted for Homecoming King and Queen. That shows that students know how to use the system to vote and they either choose not to or don’t know the vote is happening. 

The real kicker is that $0.55 added to get SGA off allocations; which supposedly will stop conflicts of interest between allocations and SGA paid positions. I agree that there could be a conflict of interest, but this is the first time SGA has shown any interest in conflict of interests. For example, TMN wanted to raise their fee for student media in order to get off of the FHSU president’s office help.

Currently, the student media fee for TMN is $1.35 and is matched to the $1.99 mark by the President’s office. This would mean we would have no reason to back off any journalism content that relates to the president’s office, and they would have no power over what content we produce; which has been an issue in the past, and is one of the main reasons The Leader was started.

The other part of this is that TMN has to listen to SGA, instead of being able to be critical of them. TMN receives allocations like any other student organization, which means we have to comply with anything SGA does and wants; unless we want an unfavorable allocations meeting. To me, that is a huge conflict of interest in itself. If the fee was added to truly create less strain between SGA and the allocations process, then wouldn’t SGA have to distance themselves from allocations altogether? Would that fee go to create either a new position or a new committee that would oversee that, and not be part of SGA? The new fee would add a graduate position to SGA, but what that actually entails is not very clear.

Now, in SGA’s defense, I did not go to SGA meeting to raise these concerns. I take my stance as an objective observer because that is what it means to be journalistically involved. This article, however, is a journalistic endeavor to raise concern; even if it is more opinionated than most articles. That is what the role of the media truly is. I can offer my opinion, but it is up to the reader to actually come to a conclusion based on the facts.

This article is coming out at the worst time, everyone is more concerned about the summer than what will happen in the fall. Truth be told, we had someone working on an article about this, but finals combined with some other events may have gotten the best of them. Also, I am graduating so this really doesn’t affect me – I don’t ever have to pay that fee.

I can’t say I’m not biased though, I hate assigning people to cover every SGA meeting. When I worked at KWCH (mind you I was in production, not a reporter) the staff only covered town hall meetings (via video) when something big was happening. A written article was always made, but you can find the minutes and transcript for every meeting on the city’s website (and you can do the same for SGA meetings). From a producer point of view, it made the staff dislike the job, thus creating less enthusiastic writers and videographers. Most of the people took jobs at TMN to create content that they thought was important; they pitch their own stories and projects. Yes, there are other things we make every employee do, but the deal breaker was always SGA meetings.

If something important was happening, then I would gladly send a reporter to the meetings. But if it is a routine meeting, with nothing really to note on the agenda then it’s a waste of time for my reporters and my writers. That lead to them not caring when it actually came time to address these issues; making these issues seem not as important as they are.

Like I said before, it is our job to question the powers that be; whether we do it or not is up to the person in charge of the story. I can’t create every piece for TMN, and I don’t want to squash someone else’s voice when they are making a story. I can recommend to those people to do the stories, but it is ultimately up to them.

Well, that’s my tirade of “epic” proportions. As a producer, I have never faced the challenges I have faced here at FHSU (at JUCO I was also a student producer, doing the same job for a scholarship). Challenges facing faculty, being forced to cover SGA, having students being told by certain people to not produce a type of content, no involvement from students on campus or in our department, and the list goes on. Ultimately, I get to leave Hays next week and try to find a job in video production that will be as far away from the news as possible.

Oh and Congrats 2017 Seniors!

 

For TMN, for the last time, I am Tim Abrams.

 

*Edit: 5/10/17 8:15 pm

It was brought up that some of the students in the SGA election did not vote for the supposed increase, the final numbers provided to TMN by SGA is listed below. Although both passed, there was a substantial amount of students that voted against. It needs to be noted however, all the votes below still add up to 7% of the on-campus population. The graphic below is from a email sent from Brittney Squire to TMN staff and faculty.

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