My letter to UNH judges on why The New Hampshire deserves “Publication of the Year”

by Chad Graff

Relations between The New Hampshire, the University of New Hampshire’s school newspaper, and some administrators at the university are sub-par at best. Today, those administrators, who will remain nameless, are accepting nominations for student organization awards. In my opinion, TNH deserves a number of awards. We put in the most time and we serve the community more than any other org. But I understand why that won’t (and probably shouldn’t) happen. So instead, I chose to focus our award nominations on the “Publication of the Year” award. Honestly, it’s an award that is directed at the student newspaper. But since relations with officials and TNH were hinged a few years ago, the award, which was won nearly every year by TNH, hasn’t been given out despite receiving nominations. Below is the case I made and sent to the judges this year as to why TNH deserves the award.

 

Dear judges,

As journalists we’re trained not to bury the lead. So I’ll come out and say it.

You disagree with a number of actions that my publication has made in the last year.

You think things should have been done differently. You didn’t like editorials we wrote. At the same time, we disagreed with some moves you made. Hence, said editorials.

What I’m asking you, though, is to put aside personal bias and make a fair decision for Student Publication of the Year.

Without question, The New Hampshire has been better than any other UNH publication. Frankly, it’s not even close. In October, TNH was awarded an Associated Collegiate National Pacemaker Award – the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism – for general excellence. To translate, TNH was named one of the top college publications in the nation. For it not to be named the top publication at its own university would be a mistake.

At a similar national conference in the spring, TNH won a best of show award. But it’s not just quality that separates TNH from other UNH publications. This year, we’ve printed 34 issues – roughly 700 pages. In the same time, the other four university publications have printed four issues combined. (I acknowledge that one of the publications is the yearbook, which publishes once a year. Regardless, the numbers are staggering.) By the time the semester ends, we’ll have added another 16 issues – another 320 pages.

In 2009, TNH won publication of the year. In fact, it won the larger “student organization of the year” award as well. In the year that followed, TNH was placed on probation for missing a meeting, then “double probation” for missing the follow-up meeting. We satisfied all the requirements placed on us during probation by last spring – a few weeks before the timeframe for this award began.

Since 2009, TNH put an emphasis on covering more controversial news and producing watchdog journalism. We have made an additional effort to weigh in on controversial stories with editorials on the opinion page. Some of you may have agreed with. Others may not have. That shouldn’t matter, though, in judging for this award.

Several members of the MUB feel that we have not covered Greek life properly. They say we only cover negative news, and were especially upset when we told a member of Greek life that we would not run his/her story on Greek awards because he/she was a part of Greek life. I respectfully disagree. We have, in my opinion, maintained balance in our stories, and have provided the news, be it Greek news or beyond, to the campus and surrounding communities. In addition, we offer free advertising to fellow student orgs. It’s a move that gets us nothing, but gives a helping hand to other organizations.

Since TNH won Publication of the Year in the spring of 2009, the award hasn’t been given out. Organizations have been nominated, but for some reason no award has been given. We recognize that you don’t agree with all of our moves. But if the award is given “for an outstanding student organization media/publication initiative,” than, regardless of personal feelings, the choice is simple. When a few members of the staff, including myself, took a SAFC-funded trip to the Associated Collegiate Press conference in March, one Seattle Times journalist said this: “If administrators are happy with what the student newspaper is doing, than the student newspaper is doing something wrong.” You don’t need to like us to recognize the outstanding work that we have done.

I encourage you to do the same that you ask of us – be fair and balanced. In the last year, we have been consistently producing outstanding publications and scooping local professionals to several stories. National journalists have recognized that. It’s my hope that our university will do the same.

Sincerely,

Chad Graff

Executive Editor

The New Hampshire

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