Online Exclusive: Standing for Student Press

Editor’s Note: The following is a joint editorial that the New University Editorial Board co-signed along with representatives from 43 other student newspapers in support of the editorial staff of the University of Oregon’s Daily Emerald. Since the editorial was first published in several of these newspapers on March 6, 2009, the Daily Emerald has resumed publication on March 9, 2009.

On Wednesday morning, the entire editorial staff of the Daily Emerald-the student-produced newspaper at the University of Oregon-went on strike in protest of the attempts of its board of directors to install a publisher with unprecedented control over the newsroom.

Today, college newspapers across the United States and Canada stand in solidarity with the editorial staff of the Daily Emerald in support of the independent collegiate press and student-controlled editorial content. We are deeply dismayed by the short-sighted actions of the Emerald’s board of directors and strongly support the strike until the staff’s demands are met, and independent student journalism can be safeguarded from such attacks at the Emerald and on college campuses nationwide.

On Thursday the board of directors had the audacity to publish their own version of the Oregon Daily Emerald using content from The Associated Press and a front-page statement from the board. This move is as offensive as it is unwise.

In November, the board of directors hired Emerald alumnus Steven A. Smith as a consultant, and he drafted a plan that included a call to hire a publisher. Smith then authored the publisher’s job description as well as his own terms of employment for the position, which the board approved without negotiation. On Feb. 24, the board voted to hire Smith as the Emerald’s publisher, and to give him unprecedented control over the full paper’s operation, including supervising the editor in chief. Smith could also have been concurrently employed by the university, creating a clear path for the university to control what should be student-produced editorial content.
In the face of the strike, Smith has decided to withdraw his decision to accept the position. Today the Emerald staff demands a nationwide search for a new publisher, whose authority would not extend over the editor and who would not be employed by the university.

Since its inception, the Oregon Daily Emerald has served as an invaluable learning resource for its student journalists, but if the board continues to wrest control from students, the Emerald’s mission and legacy will be invalidated. Without objectivity and independent content in the newsroom, the paper cannot properly train its student reporters and the campus will lose an irreplaceable source of information, outside of the influence of university public relations efforts.

The Emerald, like many papers across the country, is in dire financial straits and faces the possibility of closure. This financial reality, however, should not force the staff to compromise their guiding ethics as journalists or to sacrifice the paper’s autonomy. The decision to give a publisher sway over journalists would in no way solve the paper’s financial crisis; as such, this seems to be a callous overreaching by the board and the university, and an attempt to take advantage of a financially struggling but influential student organization while the time is right.

We are living in a tough time for the newspaper business. Now more than ever, we must stand strong and stand together to maintain our editorial independence-any measure of overarching interference in content undermines our journalistic standards and is unacceptable, no matter the financial situation. Practicing journalism under the possibility of censorship and the meddling influence of an administration undermines the purpose of a free press-we hope that the Emerald’s board will recognize this undeniable fact and immediately meet the staff’s demands. Until then, we stand with the Oregon Daily Emerald.

Signed by:
The California Aggie, UC Davis
City on a Hill Press, UC Santa Cruz
Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech
The Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell University
The Daily Aztec, San Diego State University
The Daily Bruin, UC Los Angeles
The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley
The Daily Campus, University of Connecticut
The Daily Cardinal, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Daily Evergreen, Washington State University
The Daily Iowan, University of Iowa
Daily Kent Stater, Kent State University
The Daily Lobo, University of New Mexico
The Daily Nexus, UC Santa Barbara
The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University
The Daily of the University of Washington
The Daily Orange, Syracuse University
The Daily Pennsylvanian, University of Pennsylvania
The Daily Princetonian, Princeton University
The Daily Reveille, Louisiana State University
The Daily Sundial, California State University, Northridge
The Daily Targum, Rutgers University
The Daily Texan, University of Texas at Austin
The Daily Trojan, University of Southern California
The Daily Wildcat, University of Arizona
The Gateway, University of Alberta
The Guardian, UC San Diego
The GW Hatchet, George Washington University
The Highlander, UC Riverside
The Independent Alligator, University of Florida
Ka Leo O Hawaii, University of Hawaii
The Martlet, University of Victoria
The McGill Daily, McGill University
The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
The New University, UC Irvine
The Quill, Brandon University
The Rebel Yell, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
The Stanford Daily, Stanford University
The State Hornet, California State University, Sacramento
The State Press, Arizona State University
The Ubyssey, University of British Columbia
The Vermont Cynic, University of Vermont
Washington Square News, New York University