Our View is a staff editorial produced collaboratively by the entire Rocket Staff. Any views expressed in the editorial are the opinions of the entire staff.
To review our editorial policy, which includes our blotter policy, click here.
This staff editorial is part of the op-ed campaign from the Student Press Law Center in honor of Student Press Freedom Day on Jan. 29, 2020.
The Rocket has been documenting Slippery Rock University’s history since 1934 as SRU’s independent, student-run newspaper. For the past 86 years, The Rocket has continued to cover SRU’s events in our news, sports, campus life and opinion sections in print and digital formats.
Within the past few years alone, The Rocket has covered a state-system wide strike, lawsuits against the university, campus crime in police blotters and provided our own analyses of campus issues in staff editorials. We accomplished all of this breaking news content, all in addition to us attending classes as full-time students and holding other jobs on campus or in our own hometowns.
We also covered these hard-hitting stories as an independent news organization. We are not funded through the university or the communication department, but rather the Student Government Association, a standard for student organizations on this campus.
While other local news organizations, such as the Butler Eagle and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have journalists who cover SRU’s news, The Rocket is one of the only organizations (alongside WSRU-TV News and WSRU 88.1 FM) solely dedicated to covering this community. For us being the only newspaper in our small town, we use our knowledge of what is most important to our community to tell the stories of The Rock.
We also recognize that we are fortunate in the press freedom we receive on this campus. While we have an advisor, she doesn’t subject us to prior review. While she can suggest stories, angles or ideas to us, all content produced by The Rocket is the content of student journalists who are not censored by an advisor.
After all, neighboring private colleges and public high schools often don’t share these freedoms and are subject to prior review. For high schools, the legacy of the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case of 1988 makes prior review a standard for public schools in our own state, a legacy that the PA New Voices campaign hopes to amend. While we still receive takedown requests and negative feedback for some of our content, we have our defenses of the First Amendment and our journalistic code of ethics to allow us to do our jobs.
This being said, we don’t take our role in the Slippery Rock community lightly. Our work takes hours to complete. We spend hours interviewing, writing, fact checking, designing and copy editing all of our content, all under the pressure of deadline and all to make our community more knowledgeable of the happenings of SRU and the surrounding borough.
Just like any other professional news organization, we strive to inform the public about the most attainable version of the truth using journalistic ethics. In rural Butler County in which The Rocket is the only newspaper dedicated solely to covering our university, it’s our job to uphold those standards and deliver the most quality news possible.
After all, without independent, student-run news coverage of this university, what would be left?