Newsflash: Targum Hits New Low

With school about to open, at a time when the RU athletics department is being heavily criticized for lavish under-the-table payments to Mulcahy's $2 million football coach, at a time when undergraduate tuition has been raised to astronomic levels to offset the cost of a stadium expansion with luxury seats and corporate skyboxes, at a time when Rutgers is stuck with a litter-strewn "slum campus" while millions are poured into hideous and garish athletics facilities, at a time when admissions standards are dropping precipitously and the university is in danger of losing top faculty members, at a time when Rutgers has plummeted 20 full places from an already sub-par rank in the U.S. News academic rating of major universities, at a time when Rutgers is increasingly known as a "school of last resort" that attracts low-SAT sports yobbos, did you hear about any of this in The Daily Targum's back-to-school issue?

You did not. Instead, you got one Mike Vorkunov solemnly telling arriving students that "You sure picked a good time to enroll at Rutgers. In fact, it may never be better."

From Confessions of a Spoilsport:

The more closely we looked at the Targum, the less it looked like a newspaper at all.

There was no investigative reporting. Nothing about admissions policy or the politics involved in appointments to the Board of Governors. No mention of ongoing controversies about cheating and plagiarism, or the validity of teaching evaluations. Nothing about bitterly contested tenure and promotion cases.

In a university that purported to be an intellectual community, there was little discussion of guest lecturers or books or ideas. Nor was there any detailed account of the millions Rutgers was pouring down the drain of Div IA athletics. For that, readers had to go to outside newspapers like the Home News Tribune or the Newark Star Ledger. . . .

Then there was the matter of the expensive advertisements bought by the Athletics Department, including a lavish special section each fall devoted to the football team. Just how much money the Athletics Department was paying to the Targum, however, was impossible to determine. When queried by Rutgers 1000 about Athletics Department advertising revenues, the Targum responded that the figures were "unavailable." It was an odd response, we thought, for a publication that was heavily supported by student fees.

-- Chapter Six, "Sportswriters in Wonderland, p. 98

 A Tiny Experiment

What does a real college newspaper look like? How does the Targum compare to such a newspaper?

For those of you asking yourselves this question, we suggest you undertake the following experiment: (1) every day for five days, click on the first of the two links below. This will take you to that day's Daily Targum. Read through that day's issue carefully, judging the depth and seriousness of its coverage of university affairs, the amount of space devoted to mindless "filler,"and the proportion of space devoted to Athletics Department affairs (teams, coaches, recruiting, game scores, etc.). Then (2) click on the second link below. Compare in detail the other newspaper with the Targum you have just read. Draw your own conclusions. (3) Discuss with your friends the issue of whether the Targum, under its current management, ought to be supported by student fees.

The Daily Targum

An Actual College Newspaper

From Confessions of a Spoilsport:

The Rutgers 1000 students were right that, outside of sports, the Targum never reported any real university news.

A folder in the campaign's files contains a week's worth of typical Targum stories. Some samples: "Children Learn Organic Farming" ("Organic farming is better for humans and for the land"); "Community Addresses Domestic Violence"; "RCPC Announces Rutgersfest Lineup" (hip-hop artist "DJ Elephant Man" to be featured at student event"); "Groups Aim to End Diversity Stereotypes."

Those headlines reminded me of the funniest newspaper parody I ever read. Every year, the Lampoon, Harvard's venerable humor magazine, pirates an edition of the Crimson, Harvard's student newspaper.

One year the Lampoon editors were inspired to publish a Crimson in which absolutely nothing happened: complete coverage of, so to speak, a no-news day on campus.

The lead story, with a headline in the font size usually reserved for declarations of war, screamed EXAMS TO BEGIN ON THURSDAY: STUDENTS TO BE TESTED ON COURSE WORK.

The story then gave full details: the Harvard Coop revealed that examination blue books were selling briskly. Every department queried by the Crimson confirmed that it was giving examinations that semester. Students taking tests would be allowed to bring pens into the room. If they preferred, they could bring pencils. Some undergraduates interviewed by the Crimson confessed they felt "pretty confident." Others admitted they "still had some studying to do."

The difference is that this was a parody. On the Targum, they actually thought things like this were news.

-- Chapter Six, "Sportswriters in Wonderland, p. 97


Here's the Targum's back-to-school story:

Incoming students should prepare for fresh success

Mike Vorkunov / Associate Sports Editor

Life is all about timing. How many times have you heard someone explain their success as just "Right time, right place?" For this incoming freshman group, the Class of 2012, this motto has never rung louder.

You sure picked a good time to enroll at Rutgers. In fact, it may never be better.

Four years ago, first-year students making their way onto the Banks (That's what Rutgers fans call the Piscataway/New Brunswick campus) were forced to inherit a football team that was coming off a 5-7 season - one year removed from going 1-11. People were calling for Greg Schiano's head. And the last time Rutgers had registered a winning record, Michael Jordan still hadn't retired - the first time. The 2004 season wasn't much better. Four wins, one in the Big East. A home loss to a 1-AA team. And a 33-point loss to Navy. Ouch.

But how times have changed.

This August, when you first make your way onto campus as official Rutgers students, Schiano's team will be coming off their third straight winning record. Two straight bowl wins. A 2,000-yard rusher, the first in Big East history. One unforgettable November night. And most importantly, a team that can contend at the top of the conference standings in 2008.

Can I guarantee a Big East title along with your freshman 15? No. But just the fact that it is a possibility is already a huge improvement and unbelievable to some.

The Big East is wide open this year. No team is the runaway favorite, no team is definitely counted out (except Syracuse). But definitely a chance to enjoy how far the team has come.

And before the football season is even done, Scarlet Nation will have a chance to see how far the basketball program can go.

The last two years should be easy to forget for Rutgers men's basketball fans. A combined 21- 39 record. Three conference wins each season.

Even those stats are not ugly enough to describe how bad the last two years were.

But that is all in the past. The future is all that matters for head coach Fred Hill Jr.'s team.

He has recruited an incoming class that is ranked in top 25 in the country. Mike Rosario leads the way for the four-player group. Ranked as one of the top 20 freshman recruits in the nation, Rosario has already taken it upon himself to lead Rutgers basketball to level of respectability that has not seen in a long time. And a NCAA berth that has been 18 years in the making.

Greg Echenique will make for a perfect sidekick to the sweet-shooting St. Anthony's product. Echenique, who played basketball for rival St. Benedict's, is man-beast in the paint. Any time Rosario may miss, the 6'9" center will be right there waiting for a rebound and put-back dunk.

Not a bad time to be a Knight.

That is exactly what April Sykes, Jasmine Dixon, Brooklyn Pope, Chelsey Lee and Nikki Speed think.

Those five players will make up women's basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer's 2009 recruiting class - maybe the best ever in any Rutgers sport. A run to the NCAA Championship game in 2007 may prove to be only a harbinger of success for what this class can accomplish.

So congratulations on making it to college. Get ready for four great years - maybe the four best that Rutgers sports has ever seen.

Copyright (c) 2008 The Daily Targum