By TYLISA JOHNSON
Florida A&M University officials have launched an “official” news site over objections from students and alumni.
Outcry had delayed the launch by a week after university president, Elmira Mangum, proudly announced late last month that her administration would launch an official university newspaper. “’It won’t be The Famuan. It’ll be a real newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal,” Mangum said at the time.
Three weeks later, Mangum, who is under increasing pressure from the university’s board of trustees, sang a different tune. “The fact is, the university is not creating a `new’ newspaper; it is merely updating and upgrading its existing online news site,” Mangum wrote on the new “news” site when it finally launched last week.
“There has been a clarion cry for a news platform that better provides updates for official communications from the University’s Administration regarding the activities of the entire campus community, especially in light of various blogs and other social media pages that misreport information about the University,” Mangum’s letter states. “This revamped site is our response.”
Controversy erupted shortly after Mangum’s initial announcement, particularly perplexed were the student journalists and journalism alumni of Florida A&M’s current storied newspaper, The Famuan. They specifically wanted to know why a new newspaper was being created in the face of continued budget cuts to The Famuan and its sister publication, Journey Magazine.
In publication for more than 50 years, The Famuan has been the voice of the students of Florida A&M University since 1919. It is published jointly by the student body of Florida A&M University and the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication.
Mangum said that she respects the role of an independent student-run newspaper, and added that her administration’s new website will not compete with the The Famuan despite it boldly declaring itself as “the official source for FAMU news and events.” The new publication will also seek advertising dollars and contains space dedicated to “student media.”
The Office of Communications could not provide an advertisement rate sheet for the new publication, but confirmed that there will be one soon. It is not clear where that money will go, or if it will be put toward student media budgets, officials said.
Mangum called an article about the new “news” site, penned by The Famuan‘s current editor-in-chief Reggie Mizell, a “misperception.”
In his Sept. 3 article, Mizell wrote that the idea of an “official newspaper” was born out of, and surrounded by, secrecy.
“No notice of a launch has been publicized. Student media editors were not solicited to promote it on any of their mediums, i.e. newspaper, radio, or social networks. Mangum actually spoke to a class in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication building and did not mention anything about it to a room full of journalists and reporters,” Mizell writes. “I guess this is what happens when one of those journalists who were sitting in that class found out.”
Mizell also discussed The Famuan’s current budget of $10,000, “maybe enough to support one publication each semester, maybe,” he wrote. As of Aug. 27, he states, Journey Magazine’s budget is $1,643.
Mizell’s article prompted a strong reaction from students and alumni, which led the administration to postpone the launch of the new publication’s website, initially scheduled for Sept. 4. An emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees via teleconference was scheduled on that date at 4 p.m. instead, according to an email sent that morning.
Gina Cherelus, a 2014 graduate of FAMU and an All Digitocracy contributor, doesn’t believe FAMUNews.com is a bad thing, but she also doesn’t believe student media at the university has had the support that it should.
“I don’t think that President Mangum’s idea is coming from a bad place,” Cherelus said. “I just feel however it’s being funded, whether it’s sponsors or it’s funding from the school, that new [news outlet] is getting attention that The Famuan and Journey magazine haven’t been getting for the past couple of years.”
Ferrisa Connell, a senior public relations student at FAMU, believes the new news site is not needed because positive awareness for the university can be raised through existing outlets. “Great things are always happening at FAMU and I understand that you want to share it, but there are other outlets to share it,” she said.
The Famuan, though currently in works to find advertisers, does not currently have advertisers or sponsors.
LaCrai Mitchell, Journey’s former Editor-in-Chief, believes it’s difficult for student media to receive money because those in charge of allocations don’t understand magazine or newspaper budgeting. “When you don’t understand what you need money for or how much you need to do a task, then you’re not allocated that amount of money,” Mitchell said.