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May 6, 2004

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Department of Communication

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Cleveland State's PR dropped ball on 101

As the Cleveland Stater staff put the last issue to bed, the editorial board argued about whether it was in the best interest of the publication to add a “cheers and jeers” section to the Perspectives page.

In the midst of the good and bad things happening on campus some thought it would be a good way to celebrate or show disappointment in major campus news like the demise of Café 101.

Eventually the staff came to the conclusion that we wanted the publication to be different and we didn’t want to copy the Friday cheers and jeers that the Plain Dealer runs on its opinion page.

No sooner than the Cleveland Stater staff voted against the “cheers and jeers,” Cleveland State showed up in the on the bottom left of the Plain Dealer’s opinion page. “Jeers…to Cleveland State University.” It stuck out like a sore thumb.

Ohio’s largest newspaper gave the university a jeers for the way that it handled the Café 101 situation.

Of course, the Plain Dealer was the first topic on the agenda at the Cleveland Stater staff meeting that afternoon. Not because we wanted to do that, but because we were so surprised that all of the media coverage of the Café 101 closing has been so one sided. Where has the university’s public relations department been amid all the mess.

Give credit to Sam McNulty, the Café 101 staff, and the Student Government Association for getting their message out. The Plain Dealer, Scene Magazine, Channel 3, and both campus publications had stories on the issue, and most of the stories were slanted toward the Café 101 side. The university didn’t seem to stand a chance because it wasn’t letting the students know what was involved with Café 101’s closing. The media made the Cleveland State administration look like one that doesn’t care about what students want.

Meanwhile, the administration is trying to do what is in the best interest of the university. The only problem is that it is having a lot of trouble getting the message across to the students and the community.

The Cleveland Stater staff has made it a mission this semester to report both sides of issues.

Fair reporting is always best. With that in mind, we gave both sides of the Café 101 issue a chance to write the university community a letter defending the position.

The letter written by Cleveland State Director of Marketing and Public Affairs Brian Johnston lacked the emotion that students were hearing from McNulty and other Café 101 supporters. The concise nature of the letter brought with it the feeling that the university really doesn’t care. Students should move on.

The university has taken the stance that Café 101 will close. Nothing can be done to keep the doors open. But members of the administration have also promised that new locations will be investigated for housing the popular campus hangout.

While that sounds reasonable, the administration must do a better job communicating its intentions to the student body.

As of right now, that has yet to happen. No press releases, no statements, only a small letter written to the Cleveland Stater that told students what they already knew. And because of that, Cleveland State has received nothing but negative PR in the past month.

Students can be certain that the administration is doing what is in the best interest of the university community. Times are tight, and as sad as it may be, sometimes the little guy gets shoved aside. But good communication must complement the university’s decision making. The students deserve that in the least.

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