Media outlets cover the good as well as the bad, which Cal Poly Corporation should know by now. | Mustang News File Photo

The Mustang News Editorial Board consists of editor-in-chief Kayla Missman, managing editors Benjy Egel and Celina Oseguera and broadcast news director Leah Horner. 

Mustang News is proud to be mostly self-sufficient. Approximately 85 percent of our funding comes from advertisements secured by our nationally award-winning business team, with the remaining 15 percent or so coming from university funding designated for Instructionally Related Activities (IRAs).

Being largely independent means we don’t worry about administrative reactions when determining what content to run. Some articles, such as one about Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong outspending all other CSU presidents on travel, are not exactly what many administrators would like to see in print.

Whether or not they like everything we print, Armstrong’s office respects and understands the need for an independent campus press. If only the same could be said for Cal Poly Corporation — particularly Campus Dining.

On Feb. 8, 2016, Mustang News ran a front-page story on a group of nutrition students’ report on Campus Dining options. The study — and the subsequent article — said only 12 percent of all 314 Campus Dining entrees studied qualify as “healthy” based on the widely accepted Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for campus dining (NEMS-CD).

During the last academic year, Campus Dining has paid for two ¼-page advertisements in every regular edition of Mustang News, totaling approximately $4,000 per month — more than half of our monthly editorial payroll. After the story ran, Campus Dining pulled all ads, gutting Mustang News financially for publishing news it didn’t like.

This is not a cry for help. As previously stated, our business department is recognized on a national level. We’ll be able to make up the advertising gap left in Campus Dining’s absence in time. This is more of an admonishment of the powers in charge of the university’s business wing.

By removing Campus Dining ads from Mustang News, Cal Poly Corporation is sending a message of authoritarian control. Apparently protecting Campus Dining’s already less-than-sterling reputation is more important than supporting the First Amendment at Cal Poly — not to mention disrespecting the quality of the work done by the nutrition students.

Campus Dining originally said it was removing all ads to better revisit its advertising and marketing strategy. We figured we would give them that opportunity, despite the fact that cancelling all ads in the meantime seemed like an odd marketing ploy.

Instead, we were told this week that Campus Dining would only be purchasing online ads for the foreseeable future, which total $575 per month — approximately 14 percent of what it spent on print ads in a four-week month. Campus Dining had been purchasing the online ads before the article ran as well.

This is not budgetary restructuring or changing a marketing plan. There is little chance the money will be spent on something substantive like, say, improving the food dished out around campus. This seems to be Cal Poly Corporation attempting to punish Mustang News for writing a negative article.

The report put together by the nutrition students was factually accurate, detailed and overseen by two faculty members with doctorate degrees in their fields.

Most companies understand that news agencies will publish the good and the bad about them. Mustang News has no vendetta against Campus Dining or Cal Poly Corporation — the planned renovations to VG Café received coverage as well.

Cal Poly Corporation is failing to heed the first half of its name — the part that is supposed to support the university and its students. Cal Poly Corporation Executive Director Lorlie Leetham’s initial response to the survey was skepticism over how the statistics were compiled, despite the fact that the research was published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s online journal.

Mustang News has no regrets about running a scientifically accurate story which portrayed Campus Dining in a negative light. However, we are disappointed that the adults running our university have responded in such a childish manner.

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