Edit: Shortly after this article was published I was contacted by the Cluster to let me know they had some technical issues that have since been resolved. The Cluster is alive again which is great news. I wish them success and am very happy to know Mercer will continue to have a student newspaper. I hope the university will decide to offer them more support with technical assistance and expenses. There is a comment below the article by the new editor of the Cluster which offers his rebuttal of my assessment.
The Mercer Cluster is the official student newspaper and news site of Mercer University, published in print every other Thursday and online seven days a week during the school year.
Around a month ago and possibly longer, I noticed their website was down. I have no idea how long it had been down before I noticed. I contacted them by Twitter and on Facebook to let them know but didn’t receive any response. I also contacted the Mercer Center for Collaborative Journalism by social media but again failed to receive any response. I figured it was just a temporary glitch and would be quickly fixed. When I clicked on Mercercluster.com which is the website for the paper this is the image that appears.
This is known as a parked or placeholder page when sites are new or have expired or are broken. The links you see are actually sponsored ads.
The Mercer Cluster has both print and online versions of their paper, or at least used to have an online version. Students started publishing The Cluster back in 1920 and it continues to be student run.
They have published a few controversial items like the one back in 2005 where they ran an advertisement in support of pro-LGBT on the “Coming Out Day” which eventually caused Mercer to separate from the Georgia Baptist Convention. But The Cluster by and large has avoided serious, controversial, or investigative type of stories that you will often read in other papers like the Red and Black which is the student run newspaper of the University of Georgia. In this article for example, they take on a very powerful member of the Georgia Board of Regents.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s inexplicable and inexcusable reappointment of Donald (Don) Leebern Jr. to the Board of Regents this year (Executive Order issued on January 1, 2012) proves dirty politics are still alive in the University of Georgia System.
Leebern has served on the Board, which oversees the University System of 35 member universities and colleges, since 1991. If he serves his entire new seven-year term, he will remain a regent until Jan. 1, 2019. Leebern is known as one of the University’s most generous financial contributors. But he is, perhaps, more noted for his roles in various controversies while serving as a regent. Several have shown a shameful and reckless pattern of conduct.
I appreciate the articles on blight in Macon, but it would be nice to see both the Mercer Cluster as well as the new center for collaborative journalism produce a lot more in-depth articles, investigative reports, and some editorials with critical analysis of the problems facing both Mercer, Macon, and the world beyond. With the Macon Telegraph in decline, you have a potentially large and captive audience if you take a bit more risk. People have short attention spans. Don’t rest on your laurels with the blight series as you seem to have done with the Duke basketball win. Where are your articles taking on the corruption, transportation, medical marijuana, religious freedom, tuition hikes, racism, merger mania at the USG, the Confederate flag debate, and so many other topics in Georgia as other student newspapers have done?
The series on blight though very well-done, needed to be followed with many other series and articles that tie in to blight. Perhaps some articles on poverty, crime, the reasons why Bibb schools continue to fail, and so many other issues often ignored or at least are poorly covered by The Telegraph.
Granted I haven’t been able to read any of the Cluster articles in over a month since the website has been down for at least that long. I remember thinking the articles I read on my last visit tended to border on the mundane and safe and rarely seemed to tackle hard-hitting topics or take controversial stances on issues. There is a lot going on at Mercer and Macon with expansion and so many other developments. How do the students feel about all these changes?
Isn’t a student-run paper supposed to foster a spirit of independence and even be a bit rebellious and controversial at times? Where is the fire in your belly Mercer Cluster? But the bigger question is where is your website? Because until you fix whatever issues that are causing your domain to show ads, nothing else really matters.
Student newspapers serve not only to inform a college’s students about campus happenings, but also provide a unique perspective on local and even world events. Student journalists need to see stories everywhere and communicate them to a very diverse audience which includes people from all over the world and not just to the students on campus. In an information-saturated culture, it is more important than ever to have storytellers able to pluck compelling narratives from all of the noise and provide some clarity.
I hope the Mercer Cluster is able to regain control of their domain. But once you do, try and find that fire and passion for journalism. Hone your craft by pushing the boundaries more and stop writing articles you could just as easily find in any high school newspaper. There is no shortage of compelling stories that need to be told in Macon, so become the storytellers for all these invisible people so often ignored. Write stories that will be remembered and have an impact long after you start your careers after graduation.
Visit the websites of some exemplary college newspapers like The Berkeley Beacon, The Daily Titan, The Heights, The Lantern, The Telescope and my favorite The Oxford Student Online and so many others that push the envelope. You may not be nearly as large or have near the staff or resources of these other universities, but you aren’t currently living up to your potential either. With the creation of the CCJ, I expect much more from Mercer’s student newspaper. We just had a monumental Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, where are your articles featuring gay students at Mercer?
As journalists remember this last point. If you aren’t pissing at least some people off, you are doing something wrong. There is no point in having the freedom of a student run paper if you don’t flex your muscle once in a while.
Here are their most recent posting on Twitter and Facebook which further seems to suggest the Cluster is basically dead or doesn’t have a team that seems to care to keep it updated. Is there anyone at Mercer aware how poorly this reflects on them as an institution?