Education Reporter
NUMBER 140 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 1997
 

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Panel Tells How to Publish a
Conservative College Newspaper

WASHINGTON, DC -- "I hope you publish a conservative campus newspaper that liberals hate and everybody reads," said Stanley Ridgley, executive director of the Collegian Network, in his address to the Eagle Forum Collegians Summit. The Network publishes Campus, a national student newspaper, and assists college students nationwide in publishing their own conservative campus newspapers.

"You dont have to start your paper on your campus by yourselves," Ridgley said. "Resources abound, and the Collegian Network is one of those resources. We provide financial assistance, expertise, networking opportunities, conferences, and how-to manuals to help get your paper off the ground if thats what you decide you want to do."

For students who decide to take the plunge and start a college newspaper, Ridgley offered much good advice. First, he said, a student must have the desire, the knowledge, and the resources.

In addition to these three basic prerequisites for success, he said, "You must have a commitment to truth and a belief in conservative principles." Some of these principles, he told the students, are individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of the law, limited constitutional government, a free-market economy, and "a belief in cultural norms that guide us."

Many of these cultural norms are being challenged on todays college campuses, and Ridgley considers conservative publications a good way to combat such challenges. "You should have something to say on your campus that you cant say otherwise because of bias and censorship," he said. "It takes extraordinary young people to put out newspapers on a college campus, especially newspapers that go against the grain."

For students who are willing to "go against the grain," finding like-minded individuals is the first step to beginning a successful paper. "It takes more than good writers to make a newspaper," Ridgley said. "It takes entrepreneurs, people who can bring together the necessary resources, business sense, organizational skill, and people skill." At a minimum, he suggests gathering together two to five core people. The success of a conservative campus newspaper, Ridgley told the group, ultimately depends on the determination of its founder. "Make it happen! If the paper does not get off the ground, its no ones fault but your own," he said. "You must develop a dogged determination to put out each and every issue. You must make it happen. You cannot rely on anyone else."

One young man who made it happen is Morgan Knull. He was the founder and editor of The Wabash Commentary while a student at Wabash College. Knull spoke about the "virulent response" that many conservative campus newspapers encounter from liberal student groups. He said that members of these groups have burned conservative newspapers in demonstrations and have even stolen them to prevent other students from reading them.

Knull told about one outrageous example at Dartmouth College, shortly after the birth of the now-famous Dartmouth Review. One of the founders, Ben Hart, was distributing the newspaper when an administrator attacked him and bit him in the chest, causing a wound that required several stitches. A few days later, members of the faculty voted to condemn Hart as responsible for inciting the incident.

"That shows the extreme measures the opposition will take to silence our ideas," Knull sad.

An effective way to keep liberals from silencing the conservative point of view, Knull said, is through student publications. He outlined several reasons for starting a conservative newspaper. First, he said, "Conservative publications establish a permanent, conservative presence on campus. They give backbone to a conservative group."

Secondly, Knull said that working on campus newspapers helps students prepare for future occupations. "They allow you to build job skills, establish contacts, and to become more fully integrated into the conservative movement."

Campus publications give conservative students a necessary voice amidst an often liberal college administration. "We accept the premise that there are checks and balances in our Constitution," he said. "But where are the checks, where are the balances in academia?"

Another student whose campus newspaper serves as a check and balance at her college is Xandy Gillman, who writes for The Duke Review at Duke University. Gillman urged the college students to be a bold voice for conservatism on their own campuses. "If your school is like most," Gillman said, "youre probably thinking that youre the only one on your side. The truth is that youll never realize how big your numbers are until you test the waters."

Although "testing the waters" may be intimidating at first, Gillman said, it is important that all conservative students be willing to let their views be heard. "Dont be a closet conservative," she said. "I really believe that American universities wouldnt be so biased if students were willing to share their beliefs and they werent afraid of the consequences."

Gillman said that while some students are unwilling to present their side of the story because they fear losing friends, many times new friendships are made in the course of publishing a conservative newspaper. "There are people out there on your side," she said. "You just have to find them."

Stanley Ridgley closed the panel by urging the Collegians to follow Knulls and Gillmans example. "Write about whats happening on the campuses. Be unconventional, give your readers the unexpected, and do not write about national and international issues except as they apply to your particular school. Focus on your campus issues."

By focusing on the most relevant issues, Ridgley said, students can have a tremendous influence on their colleges and universities. "Make an effort to break the monopoly on information that university administrations have," Ridgley said. "This is the way to promote reform in higher education. Persevere, and it can be one of the most rewarding activities of your college career."

-- by Sarah Fowler