Montclarion receives 2008 College Press Freedom Award from SPLC, ACP

Staff, editors of newly independent student newspaper recognized for standing up to student government

NEW JERSEY-- The Montclarion, the independent newspaper at Montclair State University in Montclair, is the recipient of the 2008 College Press Freedom award given by the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press, the SPLC announced Friday.

The award is given each year to a college journalist or college news medium that has demonstrated outstanding support for the free press rights of students.

After a year of frozen funds and fighting at Montclair State University, the battle between the Montclarion and the student government has calmed since the student newspaper gained its independence from student government.

During the spring 2008 semester, problems arose for the newspaper when Ronald Chicken, student government president, froze the newspaper's funds after declaring that the paper misappropriated funds to hire its own lawyer. Montclarion staff hired a lawyer to advise them on claims that the SGA violated state open meeting laws. When the newspaper's funds were frozen, the first day of school passed without a print edition of the


The path toward independence has been a rocky one. However, the determination of former editor in chief Karl de Vries, Montclarion staff and current editor in chief Bobby Melok finally paid off in July when the Montclarion filed paperwork with the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of State to become independent and a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.

"It was a matter of continuing the goal that was put in place from previous editors in chief and staff," said Melok. "They wanted to ensure that the paper continue and not be interfered with."

The university has said it would provide financial help to the Montclarion until it is able to fund itself.

Mike Hiestand, legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center said a free and independent student press is vital to the life of a healthy and robust campus.

"While the SGA might not think so right now, I believe, in time they will understand that it is in the Montclair community's best interest that the student newspaper not be viewed as a pawn of the SGA or university administration," he said.

De Vries said the newspaper's independence was a dream come true and believes students at MSU are in a better situation to get their news unadulterated.

"It's a coronation of a dream 80 years in the making," he said. " For years, editors recognized that the previous relation with SGA was inappropriate."

While there is no set day for the paper to gain its total independence, de Vries said it is more important that there is a goal to work toward.

"The idea is that if the goal is to separate the newspaper, then that meant the editors today are far more conscious in controlling expenses and [increasing] advertising revenue," he said.

As editor in chief, Melok said he is happy to be able to report on whatever issues deemed appropriate without being questioned by student government or worrying about a budget freeze.

The award ceremony will take place Oct. 29 in Kansas City, Mo. during the National College Media Convention.

Montclair State University, New Jersey, news, the Montclarion