With so many publications on campus, we decided it was high time to introduce a media critic. Our critic (or ombudsperson, if you will) aims to sift through all the muck that gets shoved in your face and distinguish that rare quality periodical from the dreck. First Call and The Walk, we’re looking at you. (However, the DP is immune because they are infallible kind of own us.)
For this first foray into Penn bubble-specific media criticism, we will examine The Penn Current, that fake newspaper that the University puts out for faculty and staff, not to be confused with The Almanac, which is much more boring and lacking in pictures. The Current is a rah-rah rag with no clear purpose: it seems to exist mostly to draw perfunctory attention to all the upbeat things Penn people our doing: The women’s center is thriving! Other book publishers are struggling but Penn Press sales are up! “This is just a perfect place for me to be!” Allow us to examine one article in particular.
“Wharton prof examines ‘bailout’”–great headline, especially the decision to put “bailout” in quotes, as if it’s some hip slang term rather than a word that’s been in the news constantly for the past few weeks. But hey, maybe some people rely on The Penn Current as their primary source for economic news: we can assume as much from the article’s lead sentence: “The U.S. economy is enduring its greatest upheaval in nearly a century.” Now that’s hard news reporting! And yet, it’s simple enough for all of the Current‘s readership (99% of whom have Ph.D.’s) to understand. The article goes on, “Though details of the plan were still being worked out as of this writing, it appeared the Bush administration, Congress and top economic officials were working on an agreement that could see the U.S. government buy up to $700 billion in bad debt from troubled financial institutions.” Um, cliffhanger much?! How will we ever wait two weeks for the next issue of the Current to tell us what unfolded next in this epic saga?
So, seriously, do we really need a publication that relentlessly positive? There’s already The Almanac for all the boring who-got-promoted, who-won-some-obscure-academic-prize stuff, but you see, the Penn Current has color pictures and fonts that are actually aesthetically pleasing: it’s, as they say in journalism, featury! While professors have respectable publications like their academic journals and The Times to read, we’re guessing that the only people that read The Current work in Penn’s communications office, where The Current is just one of the many pieces of propaganda they publish regularly because colleges like Penn need to promote themselves. Everything Penn does is in some way in service of self-promotion for self-promotion’s sake: we have to improve our reputation to attract more eminent scholars to attract better students who will graduate and be more successful and donate more money so we can improve our rankings to improve our reputation even more and so on. So The Penn Current is neither pointless oe ancillary–more than even students or professors, it is the lifeblood of Penn.
What campus publication should our media critic take on next? E-mail us.