The student newspaper advisor at the University of North Alabama (UNA) reportedly lost his job because school administrators didn't like a story the paper published. Journalism organizations have criticized the university and the College Media Association even censured the school.
Shop Talk panelist Will Buss, who is the advisor for the Western Courier at Western Illinois University, is concerned because he’s seen similar things happen at other schools.
And he said some schools keep tight reins on their student reporters, interfering with their opportunity to learn about journalism. He said that's especially true at private institutions such as Liberty University, where the administration insists on reviewing stories before they’re published. Administrators will spike stories they feel don’t reflect well on the school.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she’s glad to see journalism organizations speaking out against UNA’s actions. She said it’s up to journalists to call out schools that try to suppress student reporters. And she said journalism organizations help make the public aware of what’s happening.
Crighton also said students who are interested in studying journalism should know that private universities can censure their work because those schools are not government institutions – they’re private businesses.
Panelist Rich Egger said administrative bullying of student newspapers can happen anywhere. He recalls WIU took action against the student editor of the Western Courier a few years ago after the editor recorded a large fight on campus and posted the video online. WIU later reduced the pay for the newspaper advisor position by changing it from a 12 month contract to a 10 month contract.
Egger said administrators shouldn’t punish the messenger when fair and accurate reporting is done about what’s happening on campus.
Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.