The UC walkout–A note to our readers
on September 24, 2009
The Oakland North newsroom is a smaller-scale version of many classic modern-day newsrooms–computers, printers, a fax machine, a long conference table usually littered with coffee cups and reporters’ notebooks–except that it’s inside North Gate Hall, on the UC Berkeley campus. For nearly an hour yesterday, the 22 of us who work together on O.N. talked soberly about the Thursday plan for a campus-wide walkout to protest the layoffs, mandatory furloughs and planned fee increases that UC officials have declared are necessary responses to state budget cuts.
None of us welcomes these measures. All of us will be directly affected by them. O.N.’s reporters are self-supporting graduate students; the prospect of coming up with a 32 percent increase in tuition next year worries everybody. As journalists who are also UC students and teachers, we wrestled with the appropriate reaction to today’s events. Some wanted to join the walkout. Some did not. As our publication is supported by UC Berkeley, along with a grant from the Ford Foundation, we all agreed that it would be odd for our site to pretend nothing unusual is underway today at the campus that plays such a major role in East Bay life–but that we have a direct conflict of interest in trying to report on the walkout in any conventional way.
As I write this note, I’m inside my office at North Gate, listening to the cries of the picketers outside. We’ve cancelled our on-campus news meeting today, out of respect for those among us who have chosen to honor the walkout. One of the most vigorous of the picketers’ chants: “This is what democracy looks like.” On this, at least, we agree.
Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
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