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Newsflash: WOUNews is no news

Western’s lies lie in the details

Stephanie Blair | Editor-in-Chief

I know I may be a little biased on the issue as an aspiring journalist in the age of fake news and  “alternative facts” but this is the opinion section, so hear me out.

@WOUNews is not news — and no, that’s not The Western Journal’s handle on social media.

Ever since I arrived at Western in 2014, it’s bothered me that the public relations sector of the school — officially known as “Marketing and Communications” — has slapped the name “WOU News” on the school’s social media accounts. And, I know, a social media account by any other name would still look as sweet, but this is a line I can’t bear to see crossed.

Public relations is not news — it’s propaganda.

The word “news” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a report of recent events.” Reporting the news is not what a public relations team does: they report good news. The kind of news that will bring up enrollment and increase donor funding, but not news about things which would damage Western’s image — like the racist graffiti that was painted in April on a door in the Wolfpack Village, targeting a student living across the street from the university.

WOUNews and WOU Stories provide a shining image of Western alongside cute memes and artistically shot photos of our campus rather than a realistic picture of what being a student at Western is like. And I can’t fault them for that — it’s their job.

It is the responsibility of a PR team to make their employer attractive to the public and to handle any blemishes on that employer’s image with grace. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of a reporter to inform the public of the truth about recent events.

The dichotomy between a news source and a PR department is a strong one, though it may be subtle at first glance.

I’m not trying to say that public relations is an immoral profession or that it shouldn’t exist — simply that we should call a spade “a spade.”

Hey, Marketing and Communications — give it up. You’re a spade, babe.

 

Contact the author at sblair13@wou.edu