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Petition to cut funding to UPJ student newspaper

The front page of a recent edition of Pitt Johnstown's student newspaper The Advocate. (WJAC)

JOHNSTOWN -- A petition is circulating on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown requesting that the Student Government Association cut funding to the student newspaper.

The petition, which has been signed by more than 600 people, including SGA senators and members of the executive board, says that The Advocate publishes the names of students charged with crimes.

The Advocate is funded by a fee paid by all students, and the students who signed the petition say they don't want to pay for a newspaper that, among other things, publishes publicly available information about their alleged criminal activity.

But Breanna Berkebile, the paper's features editor, said that's part of the paper's job.

"We're going to continue doing what we're doing," she said Friday.

Tyler McNulty, the news editor and the one who generally writes the articles about citations, was picking up information from the police Friday.

He said he thinks many of the people who signed the petition don't understand what the newspaper does.

"I think they just see the citations written about them and (think) The Advocate is filled with terrible people who just want to see people get in trouble," he said. "That's not what we want to do."

The paper's editors are set to met with SGA's executive board, some of whom have apparently signed the petition, to discuss the issue.

The association's president, Kyle Maguire, declined to talk to 6 News on Friday, instead directing questions to Pitt Johnstown's spokesperson.

That spokesperson sent 6 News a statement that reads, in part:

No action has been taken by SGA to defund the Advocate, nor do we expect such action to be taken.
Since 1930, when it was known as the Panther Cub, through 1974 when it became the Advocate, the paper has a long history of reporting on campus life.
We value and support the work of these journalists throughout the years and believe they will be, and should be, doing so for many more decades to come.

That spokesperson had not responded to multiple requests for more information as of Friday evening, including questions about why the university believes SGA will not defund The Advocate and whether the university would override SGA.

Additionally, attempts on Friday to reach Shawn Brooks, the university's vice president for student affairs, were unsuccessful.

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