Friday, December 08, 2006

Take off that red shirt...

I don’t naturally have a hatred like many here for that other school across town, but recently that school has been involved with a large piece of news (something other than losing to unranked UCLA in football) that I feel strongly about. The following could have happened at any other school and I would feel the same way.

Factual background:
Organized reaction:

Without repeating the facts, basically what happened at USC was that their student-run newspaper, the Daily Trojan, nominated someone for its top position. The choice, however, was blocked by an administrator at the school, because the editor-elect called for budget transparency and fiscal independence. Unlike a lot of other papers, the Daily Trojan receives funding from the school, and is not wholly editorially independent in that the editor needs to be vetted by school administrators.

I certainly understand why the university wants to maintain financial control over the newspaper: whoever controls the purse-strings exercises effective control, as a paper can’t publish without money, and the university is loath to let the paper be financially independent. If it were to be independent, it would then be free to criticize the school in whatever why it sees fit. By having a say over who is the editor and the paper’s funding, the school can indirectly control the content of what gets printed. (Another example: a few years ago, a USC student wrote a column about how he actually likes UCLA, and this column has since magically disappeared from the Daily Trojan’s online archives.)

Of course, my problem is that the whole process undermines role the student journalists serve on any campus and undermines the free-press role of student newspapers. However, if the paper is not truly independent and serves as an either mouthpiece for the administration and/or the university exercises control over its direction, that’s fine. But the real crime occurs when the school portrays such a paper as an independent student voice.

(The irony of the whole story is that USC is home to the Annenberg School of Communication, one of the best journalism schools in the country.)


Blogger Butterflyfish said...

Flashback, over 10 years ago, much *much* less presigious school, I was editor-in-sane of a similarly situated college newspaper. Admin didn't like criticism. Issue pulled from the stands. And I was threatened with expulsion.

I resigned instead. *wistfully* Good times.

This brings back memories, though if I knew then what I know now about the law...

12:24 PM  

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