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Rack the Brain

Walking around this week on campus you might have stumbled over copies of The Binghamton Review. In previous weeks, it might’ve been Prospect Magazine or one of a number of other student publications.

It’s annoying to have papers and magazines strewn everywhere, for sure, but it also might be a problem soon solved: the Student Association has passed a resolution that could lead to racks for all campus publications.

But there’s an additional function of the racks that has us thinking: they create legitimacy.

A couple of weeks ago, the head of a major student group walked into Pipe Dream and said that some of his group members were confusing Pipe Dream with the Review.

It’s disappointing, not because the Review undermines its decent writing with immature, miserably biased diatribes and belligerent mockery of all but their own staff, or because The Free Press believes there’s a point to calling itself a newspaper when publishing at the speedy rate of twice per month (with no errors or yellow journalism to boot).

No, both publications are good for what they are meant to be: the Review for conservatives, The Free Press as simply another paper to pick up. Similar lines can be drawn for all the other mags as well.

It’s bothersome because what Pipe Dream is meant to be, and has been for 63, is the chronicle of the University. The Bearcat’s pinnacle of journalism, if you will. For the community to not realize the difference between publications — it’s a little unsettling.

But we know what the problem is, it’s one that is intrinsic to the nature of print: you see some typed words and some staples holding some pages together, you automatically pick it up. Everyone does. Maybe you read it in class, maybe you consider it.

But not all words are created equal, a fact more easily forgotten when something is printed and placed in fancy bins for distribution. This is not ‘Nam. This is journalism. There are rules, guidelines that must be followed on all ends.

The blogosphere presents the same dilemma — every Joe the Plumber has his own press via Blogger. More voices can enrich, but they also force the reader to be more critical.

H.L. Mencken wrote that journalism “is really the life of kings.” For those of us intending to pursue it upon graduation, intending to enter a dying industry, it’ll probably be far from. But we do take it seriously, and you, the reader, should take what you read seriously too.

The lesson? Don’t believe everything you find in print — whether you find it in a bin or in front of Lecture Hall 2 with footprint marks on it.