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Letter to the Editor: Willie Hiatt

Dear Editors:

As a former student journalist, I wish to applaud The Pioneer for its fearless work this semester. Few student newspapers across the country would have handled a seemingly endless stream of hard news with more sensitivity, humanity, and professionalism. Every week, The Pioneer models the critical reading, writing, and thinking skills that our liberal arts institution values and serves as an exciting center of experiential learning for students. The print and online versions are a must-read for anyone who is concerned about the future of the university.

In an era when reporting is dismissed as “fake news,” Pioneer students are holding power accountable despite open intimidation and hostility to their work. Even as administrators at Post and elsewhere are retaliating against student newspapers to protect the university “brand” and silence dissent, Pioneer editors and reporters are finding creative ways to uphold the First Amendment and keep readers informed.

Beginning with the September article on a Post professor’s viral Forbes column on privatizing public libraries, the Pioneer headlines just kept coming—poaching allegations against the new Vice President of Academic Affairs, the One LIU athletics merger, the students’ subversive “Common Sense” pamphlets and Instagram accounts, campus food quality, Queen Mab’s and King Mab’s poetic resistance, the firing of a popular Hutton House director, the George W. Bush speech, cutbacks to the campus shuttle schedule, the Midnight Madness players’ boycott, the norovirus outbreak, and on and on and on.

Just when it seemed that decisions at the top could no longer surprise us, the administration found a way. Last week’s accounts of the treatment of Pioneer co-editor Jada Butler by three administrators were astonishing. Students and faculty remain indignant about this act of intimidation, especially at the university that presents the annual George Polk Awards for journalistic excellence.

Across the country, journalism schools are seeing a resurgence in applications amid attacks on the very idea of truth. A recent Washington Post article put it this way: “The Trump era, overflowing with news, and the emergence of new ways to tell stories appear to be giving a jolt to journalism schools that in recent years struggled to cope with industry contractions.” Indeed, “there’s evidence of growing demand for journalism degrees as applications and enrollment rebound and investigative reporting classes fill up.”

Post should recognize its print and broadcasting strengths and signal to prospective students that they can learn and master news reporting and innovative storytelling across all media on our campus. I hope the College of Arts, Communication, and Design has taken note of The Pioneer’s outstanding performance and does everything in its power to protect the journalism degree so Post can continue to lead this ever-important field of study.

Thank you.

Willie Hiatt
Associate Professor of Latin American History Long Island University, Post Campus

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