By: George Garneau
AIMING TO LIFT the professional standards of advisers to campus newspapers, College Media Advisers (CMA) is working to establish a certification program.
The plan by the 700-member association is designed to improve the quality and credibility of campus media advisers by establishing voluntary qualifications for them to meet, to earn the title Certified College Media Adviser.
The proposal calls for CMA to create a certification board to which members could apply after three years on the job. Applicants would have to show a r?sum?, letters of recommendation and work samples. In an interview before the board, they would be expected to demonstrate knowledge of the law and the ethics confronting college media.
To maintain certification, advisers would have to attend at least one CMA convention every three years and would need five hours a year of professional training.
Proponents said the CMA board is likely to approve the measure in June, clearing the way for the certification committee to begin processing applications at its next convention, in November.
“We think it’s going to be good for the progression and good for the individual adviser,” said Roz Florez, a lawyer who advises at the University of Cincinnati.
Now, there are no standards governing campus media advisers. As a result, their quality varies widely.
They range from full-time advisers who are versed in student press case law, to instructors who moonlight as advisers and only got the assignment because nobody else wanted it. Some get paid, some don’t. Some are faculty, some administration, some neither.
Advisers to campus newspapers, yearbooks, magazines and electronic media routinely work under a cross-fire: from college administrators who want positive press on one side, and on the other from student journalists who want to practice their journalism skills unconstrained.
Veteran advisers concede that the skills of their colleagues vary widely.
In some cases, they say, administrators choose people who can be manipulated, either because of their ignorance of press issues or because they need the job. One survey last year found that student editors cited their advisers as the very ones most likely to ask them to censor.
Students at the recent CMA convention in New York frequently complained that their advisers are of little help.
Nor is the job necessarily a piece of cake. One untenured adviser, who was fired after the student newspaper’s aggressive crime stories enraged the top administrator, said he wouldn’t take an adviser job again ? without tenure.
At a meeting to explain the credentialing measure, advocates rejected the suggestion it was a step toward licensing. It is strictly voluntary, they said, and a step toward improving the quality of college media advisers.
“Professional journalists should welcome this because it means we are committed to professionalism,” said Michael Brennan of George Mason University. Certification would also enhance advisers’ standing on campus, and provide a lift to beleaguered advisers locking horns in negotiations with administrators.