Letter to the Editor: Cover of the DE lately has said, ‘There is nothing redeemable about SIU’


(Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

By Aaron J. Diehr

I have always compared the role of journalism to that of a lighthouse: its purpose is to provide direction through murky water in a dark night.

On the surface, this endgame appears deceptively simple: the lighthouse provides light. But underneath its framework, a complex and mathematical system guides both placement and operation. Should the light shine too brightly, it might blind the skipper. If misaligned, the vessel goes off course. The lighthouse thus betrays its very purpose.

Post-secondary newspapers are a particularly important form of journalism. Academia has the tendency to lose its direction amidst the highways of hallways in the ivory tower and — too often and without sufficient introspection — it champions itself progressive bellwether of a wayward world.


This is how the college newspaper, at its best, is a humanizing force: by providing a voice to those who might otherwise go unheard. It holds the university responsible to deliver on its mission. Here, we promise to provide “access and opportunity” and “inclusive excellence”; we vow to “improve our communities,” to “transform lives.” Should there be a perception that our leaders’ actions do not reflect these words, the college newspaper has the opportunity — and duty — to define, explain, provide needed commentary.

But, ultimately, what is your endgame?

Faculty, parents and students understand the precarious circumstances of public education in the state of Illinois. Our city’s own newspaper proclaimed the dire situation on its cover during student move-in this fall semester. Our new students, from Illinois and across the globe, read about it every Wednesday on the cover of the Daily Egyptian.

Junior faculty — like myself — are provided with every hypothetical scenario in painstaking detail: possible increased teaching loads, a potential shift from a national research institution to a regional college, a never-ending discussion of program mergers and/or eliminations. Our administrators begin every media statement with, “If we don’t receive a budget, then…”

The correct answer to the earlier question should be protecting our students. Without them, we perish. Without parents who wish to send their students here, we no longer exist.

The cover of the newspaper is the face of the university, and your facial expression lately has said, “There is nothing redeemable about Southern Illinois University Carbondale or the entire state of Illinois.” That is far from the truth: our faculty, students and community continue to achieve and impress, often in spite of less than ideal circumstances. They are the lifeblood of Carbondale, and they deserve greater representation in our press.

Nobody wishes for media to shape or distort facts, and that is not the point of this letter. That too would be a betrayal of purpose.


You do, however, have the choice — and perhaps the responsibility — to give equal time and space to that which makes our community and our university unique.

The budget stalemate has hurt our enrollment plenty. Despite the changing trends in media consumption, many of us (students, faculty, parents) continue to read newspapers.

Though the decision where to point your beacon is entirely yours, please do not forget about those on board the ship.

Aaron J. Diehr is an assistant professor in SIU’s Department of Health Education and Recreation.

Letters to the editor can be submitted by emailing [email protected]

More from the opinion section: