The Kentucky Kernel, like any other independent newspaper, is a part of the fourth estate. While we cover all newsworthy government actions and events, we are a distinct entity.
We serve as watchdogs of the university as opposed to a policy or promotional tool. Publicity that results from our reporting is inevitable, but it is not the intended purpose of the newspaper.
Last Wednesday night, the Student Government Association (SGA) put on their annual pre-election debate. One of the candidates proposed publishing a monthly article in the Kernel to publicize SGA events as part of their platform. Other candidates added that since the Kernel receives student fee money, like every other student organization on campus, we should cover SGA in more depth.
We would like to use this space to respond to those statements.
First, before the debate, none of the candidates reached out to the Kernel to determine whether or not a monthly article was possible. It may be a good idea, but the Kernel would like to clarify that we don’t publish anything and everything we are sent.
That being said, if SGA wants to publish an article in the Kernel, they can, under a few conditions. First, it would have to be in the form of an op-ed, an opinion piece that expresses the stance of some person or group on a newsworthy topic. Op-eds are different from editorials, which express the stance of the newspaper’s editorial board, and news articles, which are unbiased stories with no motive other than to inform.
However, no person or group is entitled to be in the newspaper. The Kernel staff has final editorial discretion over all articles, including op-eds. To the best of our ability, we cover and publish the news that is most relevant, interesting and important to our readers. If an SGA event falls into one of those categories, we cover it. If it doesn’t, we don’t.
There are hundreds of student organizations on campus, and we can’t show favoritism to one based on anything other than newsworthiness.
Second, while the Kernel does receive some student fees, compared to other student organizations on campus, we receive little. According to a breakdown of student fees published by the university, UK students pay $2 a year to go toward Kernel student fees, whether they want to or not. This is in comparison to the $5.50 for WRFL, $81 this year to help pay for the Gatton Student Center renovation and $12 for SGA.
This money does not make us any less independent. The student fee money mainly pays stipends for our student-journalists. The Kernel itself is a non-profit that also relies on other monetary streams like advertising dollars.
We have no obligation to cover anything simply because a fraction of student tuition contributes to Kernel operations. If that were true, we wouldn’t be journalists. We would be marketers and public relations practitioners.
So, SGA candidates, we encourage you to send us op-eds or notify us of your upcoming events. We want to cover SGA activities when they are of interest or importance to the UK student body. But remember that as journalists, we are watchdogs over the university. And that includes student government.