A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Journalism Education In-Brief

By Quill

High school rejects censorship request

When a New York Times editor asked a Maryland high school to censor news coverage of his son’s student-government impeachment trial, school officials wavered a bit initially. But they eventually supported the student journalists’ right to tell the story.

The Freedom Forum reported that Carl Lavin, a New York Times Washington bureau editor, sent a letter to officials at Walt Whitman High School in October, demanding that student journalists turn over copies of newspaper and broadcast accounts of Austin Lavin’s impeachment trial. Lavin’s letter to Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Frank Stetson expressed concern about student privacy issues, according to an Oct. 9 Student Press Law Center news release.

The Student Government Association (SGA) held the impeachment trial to decide whether to remove Austin Lavin, a senior, from his position as student president for cheating on a history exam last June, said Lance Kramer, editor of the Black and White, the student newspaper. SGA members voted 51-19 to retain him in office.

However, school officials persuaded the student broadcasters to take out the teacher’s comments criticizing Austin that were made during the impeachment trial, said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“In fact, the TV students told me that their program first aired [Oct. 4] with a note that it had been censored by the administration,” he said. “However, as the school started getting pressure from others and calls from our reporter, they began to back down, and by Oct. 5 said that they would allow the TV program to run whatever they wanted,” Goodman said.

In an Oct. 5 meeting with students, Stetson told the student journalists that school officials would not censor any of their upcoming reports, Goodman said.

Students to stop electing paper editor

The student senate and a communications board at Auburn University voted in the fall to stop electing the editor of The Auburn Plainsman. The weekly newspaper was one of the last major campus papers to still choose its editor by popular vote, The Associated Press reported.

Ed Williams, a journalism professor and faculty adviser on the Board of Student Communications, said the decision to switch to a selection process leaves the University of Texas as “the only major college newspaper that elects its editor.”

The communications board planned to meet in November to decide on the makeup of the committee, the standards for candidates and the process of selecting one of the candidates as editor of The Auburn Plainsman, he said.

Williams said the main objective was to get the editor’s post out of the political arena so candidates “won’t have to walk around, wear T-shirts and ask for votes” in a campaign alongside student government hopefuls.

The Auburn Plainsman has a circulation of 18,000 and a $400,000 annual budget that includes no financial support from the university, which enrolls 22,000 students.

Over the years, the campus newspaper has been well regarded, winning a number of national Pacemaker awards from the Associated Collegiate Press, according to the AP.

University names school after former KR chair

Florida International University in Miami has named its Graduate School of Business for former Knight Ridder chairman Alvah Chapman.

As steward of Knight Ridder, parent company of The Miami Herald, Chapman served as president beginning in 1974 and later as CEO and chairman. During the time he led Knight Ridder, the company won 37 Pulitzer Prizes and profits increased for 14 straight years.

Ben Bagdikian, one of the nation’s best-known media critics, told The Herald that Chapman brought with him a budding national reputation and a tradition of corporate and business values that very much resembled those of the Knights.

“Alvah had by then improved every paper he’d been at,” Bagdikian said. “He fostered good reporters and good reporting.”

Chapman served for years as chairman of the Florida International University Foundation. Through the years, he has brought in $14 million in gifts and contributions to the business school, including $600,000 that he and his wife, Betty, used to personally endow a chair in business ethics.