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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: defending the independence of student journalism

    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 which 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.

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