USC administration blocks student from becoming editor
December 8, 2006
(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES – University of Southern California students, faculty and student journalists around the nation expressed concern and shock Wednesday after the administration said it would block the Daily Trojan’s editor-in-chief-elect from taking office.
Zach Fox resigned as editor-in-chief Tuesday after Michael L. Jackson, vice president of Student Affairs, said he would withhold the re-elected editor’s application from Media Board approval.
“It tromps all over the reason for having a student newspaper in the first place,” said John Kotler, professor of media law at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism.
“How can you have a student voice with the students being throttled by the administration? The [faculty] I’ve spoken with are outraged.”
Kotler said he and other faculty members have asked Michael Parks, director of the School of Journalism, to put the issue on the faculty meeting agenda Monday.
Administrators cited problems with Fox’s application as the reason for preventing him from taking office.
Fox’s application did not fit the current job description for editor-in-chief, said Lori White, associate vice president of Student Affairs.
“If you apply for a job, you apply for the job as it is. If Zach had wanted to apply for the current job of editor-in-chief, we would have forwarded his application to the Media Board,” she said.
The Media Board is an advisory group composed of faculty and students whose approval is required for student media leader appointments. …
Editors at several college newspapers said complete independence from their universities’ administration is vital to their integrity.
William Marra, president of the Harvard Crimson, said editorial and financial independence from the university “is central to our ability to develop our mission.” Marra said his newspaper’s mission, “to inform Harvard University and the Cambridge community,” would be compromised if the administration could choose its editors.
“It has a chilling effect on the reporting on the administration,” he said. “You’ll be less likely to investigate as thoroughly as a college paper has to. You can’t be beholden to anyone — coverage can lose its integrity.”
“USC is backward,” said Rachel Kaminsky, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. “Clearly they want the power to remain in the hands of a few and not in the students.”
Student Affairs will hold a special election for the spring 2007 editor-in-chief Friday, after which a new nominee’s application will be presented to the Media Board for review.
— By Jeremy Beecher, Joanna Lin & Courtney Willis, The Daily Trojan (USC)
— compiled by Maxim Lott