Faculty debates structure of the newspaper
Faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication are reacting strongly, following the controversy caused by the February publication of an opinion article.
The Campus Press has been under scrutiny for the past month as a result of the publication of the opinion articles “If It’s War The Asians Want.” by Max Karson and “No Hablo Ingles” by Lauren Geary. The two articles offended many in the community and spurred widespread discussion about racism.
The faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication has since had several meetings with managing editors of the Campus Press along with Dean Paul Voakes and other staff members. The faculty has participated in discussion to find out what went wrong within the Campus Press and what can be done to ensure that a problem like this does not arise again.
On March 3, Dean Paul Voakes released a statement to report what had been discussed at meetings.
“The faculty declared its intention to address the underlying structural problems with [the Campus Press],” the statement said.
The description of the Campus Press course, which is offered through the journalism school, creates a strange situation for any college newspaper.
Professor Tom Yulsman, head of the news-editorial department in the school, said he recognizes this problem.
“It’s a very unusual arrangement,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s been a totally autonomous newspaper and on the other hand it’s a class. Usually in a class the teacher offers guidance. However, since it is autonomous from faculty, [the adviser] doesn’t review or edit students’ work.”
To address this structural problem, which has created a clash of responsibility and independence within the Campus Press, the staff of the school has created a Faculty Sounding Board. The board will offer a chance for students on the Campus Press who have questions about articles they are writing to discuss their pieces with journalism professors. The board will stand only as a consultation device for student writers.
“[The board] will not involve any form of prior restraint of students work,” according to the dean’s statement.
Voakes offered further clarity as to the duty of the Faculty Sounding Board.
“Some of the faculty [on the board] have had some professional experience working on opinion sections,” Voakes said. “The J-School advisory board has 24 high achieving career professionals.”
Faculty are working to find a solution for the structure of the class.
“The idea is to try to help students produce a good product without interfering editorially, on the ground that that would be prior restraint,” said J-School Professor Michael Tracey.
Tracey emphasized his concerns with the issues of free speech that arose out of the controversy.
“I have very strong opinions about freedom of the press,” Tracey said. “I think it’s one of the great aspects of American society. Good journalism is crucial to any democratic culture and there are ways of getting it right and ways of getting it wrong.”
Yulsman and Tracey both agree there was a period of panic when the article was first published and the controversy started.
“There was clearly too much excitement at first,” Tracey said. “We need to have a calm conversation. I’m a great believer that the more difficult a situation is; the more you have to be cautious.”
Yulsman agreed with Tracey.
“I think there are long and short-term considerations, and I don’t think people have really been able to focus on the long term yet,” he said.
The dean’s statement also mentioned the possibility of a faculty task force which would further investigate the publications of both Karson and Geary’s articles. Though the task force has disbanded, Voakes is still interested in having a formal report written up.
“I’m going to use the Max Karson investigation article that the Campus Press published shortly after the controversy broke as the basis, but I need to ask a few questions about various rumors and allegations that came up since that time,” Voakes said. “This way, if in the future anyone wants to look up the affair, we will have a report explaining exactly what happened.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Emma Dessau at Emma.Dessau@colorado.edu.
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