When the CMS department decided to cut ties with The Observer, we were foremost concerned with how we could report on the story, given our direct involvement in the events. We ultimately came to the decision to move ahead with our coverage, after continuous conversations involving our editorial board, our adviser and a number of journalism professionals, as the Fordham community deserves to know the full account. The following pieces reflect our efforts to do so in a comprehensive, accurate and impartial manner.
ARTICLES IN SERIES:
STATE OF STUDENT JOURNALISM
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Content Editors: Ben Moore; Matthew McCarthy
Content Advisers: Andrew Seamen, Society for Professional Journalists; Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center
After the Communication and Media Studies Department (CMS) announced on April 21 that they would cut ties with The Observer and cancel the journalism workshop courses, over 100 alumni voiced their support for The Observer through social media and sent letters to both the Fordham University administration and CMS officials.
They began their efforts with individual letters to Fordham administrators, including Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University and Keith Eldredge, dean of students.
Those letters were followed by 115 alumni signing and sending an alumni-written letter to the CMS department in regards to the department’s decision to cut ties with the newspaper. This letter has led to further correspondence between CMS and the alumni.
“I understand and appreciate your interest in the new Journalism major and the future of the Observer at Fordham: your concern and involvement as Observer alumni should be commended,” Jacqueline Reich, Ph.D., chair of CMS, said in a July 20 email to the alumni.
“The Observer has been such an important part of my career and from what I understand about what’s happening, I’m really afraid that future generations may not be able to get the same out of it that I did.”
– Joseph DeLessio
“One of the few good things that’s come out of this whole controversy is the letter signed by the alumni,” Grimes said. “When you look at what some of the alumni of The Observer were doing, it was a pretty impressive list of people.”
Additionally, the alumni have been active on social media, and started a “Save The Fordham Observer” Facebook page, which had 162 likes at the time of publishing this article.
All of these efforts have been spearheaded by the nine-member Fordham Observer Alumni Steering Committee, comprised of alumni of The Observer who now work in various disciplines, including journalism and communications.
“The Observer has been such an important part of my career and from what I understand about what’s happening, I’m really afraid that future generations may not be able to get the same out of it that I did,” Joseph DeLessio, FCLC ’06, a member of the Steering Committee who is also a former editorial board member of The Observer and has worked at New York Magazine since 2006, said.
“I hope that if I can let my voice be heard, whether it’s writing myself to the Fordham administration or whether it’s being part of a letter sent to the department chair, just letting them know how important this is to me, and just to show that there are a lot of passionate alumni out there who feel very strongly about this.”
“I think it should really be stated that the Observer alumni, not only the committee but all of the alumni that signed the petition, didn’t just wake up one day and say we’re pissed about this one thing you’re doing,” Marisa Flores, FCLC ’03, another member of the Steering Committee who has worked for Columbia Magazine and Time Inc. and in communications for several years, said. “Everyone has been consistently involved in different ways since they graduated Fordham. And it could be something as simple as taking a meeting with a journalism student who’s interested in breaking into this field to hiring someone to donating, so this is not happening in a vacuum.”
“I think everyone who signs that petition and everyone that’s on the steering committee wants to give back and wants the administration to understand the impact the infrastructure that in the past the Communication and Media Studies Department has supported has had on all of us, personally and professionally,” she continued.
“I want to see The Observer continue to thrive, continue to win awards like it’s done for so long,” Kelsey Butler, FCLC ’10, another member of the Steering Committee, said. “So that’s why when I heard all of this that was going on I felt that I wanted to get involved to let other people know what was happening, and also see how we can help support The Observer in any way possible.”
The alumni interviewed expressed their appreciation that Eldredge and the Office of Student Involvement have shown their support of The Observer in recent months.
“The Observer was something pivotal in their experience and they want to make sure that other students coming behind them have a similar positive, enriching, I would even say, from talking with some of them, life changing experience.”
– Keith Eldredge
“The Observer was something pivotal in their experience and they want to make sure that other students coming behind them have a similar positive, enriching, I would even say, from talking with some of them, life changing experience,” Eldredge said. “I appreciate their concern and their efforts to try to make sure that students get something that they felt they had as undergraduates.”
“The student activities office has been great throughout this process and they’re doing what they can to make sure that [The Observer] survives and that it thrives,” DeLessio said.
Butler noted how supportive Fordham itself and the administration have been of The Observer “given the fact that the deans don’t have oversight over the decisions made by the academic departments. It’s hard for them to really get involved from what I understand. So I have been very appreciative of their support,” she said.
Butler did note that she wished that there had been more progress made regarding finding a permanent solution.
“I still have some reservations, especially given that the school year is starting up so soon,” she said. “And there are a lot of questions still in the air, that makes me a little apprehensive and a little nervous for the students on the [editorial] board right now.”
Regarding the alumni correspondence with CMS, DeLessio said that while he appreciates “that the chair has engaged with us” and that “many questions have been answered,” there are “some things that haven’t really been fully answered.”
“I would just like to see some type of support academically for [The Observer] to continue the great work that has been done for 35 years, and to continue this network and this legacy that has been really invaluable for myself and for so many of my friends.” Butler said. “And however those talks can move forward with the communications department, I just hope that some permanent solution is reached sometime soon.”