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Independence is key to student newspapers

Published: Monday, December 4, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

THE ISSUE: USC administration blocks editor from office WHAT WE THINK: Paper should fight for autonomy

Last Tuesday, USC Vice President for Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson blocked Zach Fox, the reelected editor in chief of the Daily Trojan, from taking office by refusing to forward his application to the Media Board. The board has final approval over all student publication positions. Jackson's office claimed that Fox was not applying for the editor in chief job as is and rather was looking to change the role, nullifying his application.

Fox raised questions about the operational budget of the newspaper and sought to restructure the editorial board by adding a co-managing editor who would remove the day-to-day administrative tasks of the editor in chief, allowing him to focus more on content and long-term initiatives. The editorial board is also currently unaware of their operating budget, and Fox asked to know specifically where unspent funds went. His concern stems from the fact that the University garners all unspent ad sales revenue at the end of the year.

As an independent student newspaper, The Heights realizes how integral this status is to a newspaper's mission. Although USC's administration has not recently challenged the Daily Trojan's content, it is imperative that the University has no control over the operations of the paper. By blocking Fox from becoming editor in chief, the paper's mission is compromised.

A college newspaper is a special publication. University issues are reported and analyzed with a unique perspective and a respected newspaper can be an effective vehicle for change.

By relying on USC so closely for support services and funding, and furthermore, having the University play a role in the elections process is a limiting factor.

Although USC has respected the Daily Trojan's autonomy in terms of content, one simple step such as interfering with the elections process makes the next interference easier.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Northwestern, and Columbia-all of which are nationally renowned for their journalism programs-all have independent student newspapers.

Board restructuring can lead to a better quality paper while making the workload more manageable for its editors. It is essential that a well-respected university such as USC, with a large journalism program, recognizes the importance of a paper that is at a minimum, autonomous within the university organization. Without such protections, the mission of the Daily Trojan is at risk.

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