- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

The covers feature pop sensations such as Eminem and Christina Aguilera. Inside, articles drip with sarcastic indictments of the status quo. The politics of these campus newspapers and magazines spur protests and angry denunciations.Welcome to the world of conservative student journalism in the 21st century.

Even at traditionally liberal enclaves such as the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University, conservative students are opening a new front in the culture war, creating newspapers and magazines to win the hearts and minds of their fellow students.

At least 10 conservative publications have sprung up on college campuses so far this year, bringing the total nationwide to more than 70, said Josh Mercer, publications director of the Campus Leadership Program. The 3-year-old program, a project of the Leadership Institute, helps foster conservative organizations at colleges and universities.

“Too often conservatives complain about the media and that’s all they do,” Mr. Mercer said. “Our philosophy is to be the media.”

Like the radical student press of the 1960s, conservative newspapers on today’s campuses generate fiery debate — and sometimes actual fires. At Berkeley, left-wing students confiscated hundreds of copies of the California Patriot and burned them at a public rally.

Addressing thorny issues such as affirmative action, feminism and multiculturalism, editors and writers at these student journals relish ruffling the feathers of what they portray as a monolithic liberal establishment.

“Conservatives are kind of the rebels now,” said Manny Espinoza, another Leadership Institute official. “It’s the hip thing to do.”

One of the newest conservative papers, the GW Patriot at George Washington University, has produced three issues and made a name for itself on campus.

A report by the GW Patriot investigated Federal Election Commission records to document that the university’s professors donate money eight times as often to Democratic candidates as to Republicans.

Bryan O’Keefe, editor of the GW Patriot, said he has received dozens of e-mails from “closet conservatives” on campus. He said “good old-fashioned competition” from the Patriot also has influenced GWU’s official student paper, the Hatchet, toward more balanced coverage of university issues.

Conservative journals report on how tuition money is spent, as well as political actions by administrators and the student government.

Pop culture is another target for college conservatives. The latest issue of Bucknell University’s Counterweight blames MTV teen sensations such as Britney Spears and Miss Aguilera for what the magazine calls the “skankification of America.”

On campuses dominated by antiwar protests and attacks on “corporate America,” right-leaning publications defend the Iraq war and President Bush’s tax cuts.

Conservative studentjournalists tackle issues with an irreverent and sometimes inflammatory sense of satire. The president of Oklahoma University rebuked that school’s campus conservative journal after the editors of the Fountainhead published a critique of the effort by some black activists to win reparations for the descendants of slaves.

The Fountainhead crossed the line, university President David Boren said, by suggesting that, after giving “every black person in this country $1 million and 100 acres of land,” the government should “give every white person in this country who makes over $100,000 a slave.”

The Fountainhead’s editor is unapologetic.

“We want to be in their faces,” Chris Pryor said. “And sometimes it means being a little ‘out there.’ If I get suspended, great, then I get on ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’”

Conservative journals delight in their roles as campus provocateurs. The Cornell Review prominently declares at its Web site, “We do not apologize.”

That attitude is spreading. Mr. Mercer led a Leadership Institute workshop in Irvine, Calif., last month to train new editors. With more than 50 students in attendance from a dozen schools, Mr. Mercer said, he expects several more conservative papers to pop up on the West Coast this year.

Conservative college papers have a decades-long tradition. The American Spectator, now a national conservative magazine, began at Indiana University in 1967. The Dartmouth Review, whose alumni include author Dinesh D’Souza and pundit Laura Ingraham, soon will celebrate its 24th anniversary.

Despite what Mr. Mercer and others see as a rising trend, Berkeley journalism professor Susan Rasky expressed doubt about the reach of conservative campus papers.

“In some sense they are preaching to the converted,” Mrs. Rasky said, adding that the regular student daily at Berkeley seems to provide an ample forum for conservative views on its editorial pages.

Critics accuse conservative papers of courting publicity by being purposefully offensive and say the editors are just pawns lured by funding funneled from conservative donors through the Leadership Institute and Collegiate Network, which has been supporting conservative presses at colleges since 1979.

But recent studies indicate college students are, in fact, becoming more conservative. A national survey of 1,258 persons ages 15 to 92 by Berkeley political science professors Henry Brady and Merrill Shanks shows that today’s undergraduates are more conservative than their parents on certain issues, particularly religion.

Student editors of the conservative papers, however, say there is still a long way to go.

“We have our work cut out for us,” said Ruben Duran, editor of the Michigan Review at the University of Michigan. The Review has argued vigorously against the university’s system of racial preferences in admission, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

“We have 25 more years of fighting against affirmative action now,” he said.

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