Opinion: The Cronkite School made the right decision regarding Sinclair

Journalism students should be able to make their own decisions regarding their careers

ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications places a heavy emphasis on the importance of independent, truthful reporting in the journalism field with the hope that students will embody these values in their future workplaces.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has a reputation for having a right-wing bias, recently being under fire for making anchors at local TV stations read scripts condemning media outlets for publishing "fake" and biased stories. 

Across the country, several journalism schools have signed a letter denouncing the broadcast group's orders. 

The Cronkite School did end up joining the other schools in signing this letter, and although the school plans to maintain its relationship with Sinclair, it's the best decision in a difficult situation. 

Sinclair has recruited students on the ASU campus before and will continue to be allowed to do so. The Cronkite School's decision to allow Sinclair to continue recruitment is important because students should be able to make their own judgments of the group.

The journalism industry is extremely competitive, and in order to ensure student success, the Cronkite school aims to expose its students to as many job opportunities as possible. 

"I fully agree with the decision by the school," Cronkite professor and former New York Times reporter Fernanda Santos said. "I trust that these students are able to make the decisions that they think are best for their careers."

Students and faculty members at the Cronkite school strive to embody the values of strong, independent news media. Its students are perfectly capable of making their own informed decisions on the matter.

"The most important thing to understand is that even though we each have our own beliefs, opinions and biases, we should not let any of that get in the way of reporting the story," Santos said. "Reporting the story requires hearing differing opinions. It's our job as journalist to include those opinions in the discussions to let the viewer decide which way they want go."

Although the decision has been controversial, Santos believes that the Cronkite School made the decision most beneficial for the student body. And although she disagreed with some of the Cronkite student body's beliefs on the school's role in the recruiting process, she liked that there was a lot of respectful discussion about the matter with those who disagreed. 

"One thing that I loved about this is that current and former students who did not agree with the decision made their voices heard," Santos said. "They created a campaign online, wrote a letter to the school. This embodied the spirit of a Cronkite-trained journalist."

It is important to note that while Cronkite will continue to allow Sinclair to recruit on campus, the school never defended the company's behavior.

"We find the message itself abhorrent, damaging to the credibility of journalism and the public trust in news organizations," said Dean Christopher Callahan in an email to the Cronkite community. "The policy is, quite simply, antithetical to our values of a strong, independent and transparent news media."

There is no doubt that Sinclair is known for its conservative bias, and it played a significant role in the most recent presidential election. But no school should be able to dictate where its students can and can't interview for jobs. 

"We should talk about the idea of political persuasion that organizations might have, but not make the decisions for the students," Santos said. 

The Cronkite school has a commendable reputation, and although its decision to continue to work with Sinclair is controversial, it will benefit students, and potentially the whole journalism industry, in the long run. 

Reach the columnist at adunn11@asu.edu or follow @adrienne_dunn on Twitter.

Editor’s note: Adrienne Dunn is a student at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The opinions presented in this column are the hers and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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