Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Recently, the University of Maryland’s Strategic Communications team started its own news outlet, named Maryland Today. It should stop production immediately.
It isn’t unprecedented for the communications team to broadcast information about the university. In the past, such messages have taken the form of UMD Right Now, a site that features articles about current university events and happenings, or Terp Magazine, a mostly promotional publication sent to members of the extended university community three times a year. But UMD Right Now and Terp Magazine are not marketed as a comprehensive and definitive source of university news.
The university’s introduction to Maryland Today advertised it as having “all of #UMD’s news, all in one place, delivered every day.” The fact that Maryland Today is being marketed as a news source for the university and College Park community is curious, as the site’s content is controlled by the school’s spokespeople, who are not known for their reporting or journalistic prowess.
The aggression with which Maryland Today has promoted itself is rather suspicious. Students receive daily emails from the site, with article previews stacked above the proud University of Maryland logo. Though it’s beneficial for students to keep up on current events, the university has not appeared to take much interest in student media literacy until it was able to produce its own content.
In terms of content, Maryland Today’s work seem to be missing vital information. The timing here shouldn’t go unnoticed; it’s no coincidence that on the heels of multiple scandals, the university has decided there should be a publication that feeds readers mostly positive information while skirting around anything negative.
Maryland Today borders on propaganda: It puts forth an optimistic and glossed-over version of events that encourages ignorance about the severity of the university’s negligence.
Multiple articles talk about the fallout from Jordan McNair’s death, such as other players’ memorial for him and a new online reporting system student-athletes can use. But there’s only a brief mention of the role university employees played in McNair’s death. This appears in university President Wallace Loh’s apology letter to the campus community — which had previously been published on the president’s website, essentially a press release.
In the site’s athletics section, there’s only a curt mention of university money being used to represent athletes in sexual misconduct cases. And it’s buried in another article about the commission investigating Maryland football, with no indication in the headline or subhead. Ultimately, Maryland Today’s articles bear more resemblance to damage control than they do to reporting.
We must also wonder what Maryland Today resembles. While UMD Right Now has a distinct look of its own, Maryland Today’s layout is strikingly similar to that of The Diamondback. Imitation may be a form of flattery, but the degree to which Maryland Today has mimicked a widely read campus news source is concerning at the very least.
Though the site can provide readers with information, it can’t do so in an unbiased and thorough manner. While news sources dedicate themselves to facts and reporting, Maryland Today’s mission seems to be polishing the image of — and covering for — the university and its administration.
It’s wrong for a publication to market itself as a provider of reliable news if its content consists of controlled information. In a time where fake news and unreliable media are everywhere, Maryland Today’s method of advertising itself as news is deeply disturbing. If the publication is to continue, its writers should recognize it for what it is — and stop promoting it for what it is not.
Jasmine Baten is a junior English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org