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Solidarity with the student press

BY GUEST EDITORIAL | MARCH 6, 2009 7:22 AM

From The Daily Californian

On Wednesday morning, the entire editorial staff of the Daily Emerald — the independent student newspaper of the University of Oregon — went on strike in protest of the attempts of its Board of Directors to install a publisher with control over the paper’s editorial content.

Today, college newspapers across the country 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 unethical 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 its 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 stupid.

In November, the Board of Directors hired Emerald alumnus Steven A. Smith as a consultant, and he drafted a plan that included a call to hire a publisher. Smith then wrote 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 paper’s editorial content and day-to-day operations.

Since its inception, the Oregon Daily Emerald has served as an invaluable learning resource for its student journalists, but if the board continues to revoke student control over the paper’s content, its 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 members to compromise their guiding ethics as journalists or to sacrifice the paper’s autonomy. The decision to give a publisher sway over content 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 — left and right, the financial crisis is forcing papers to shut down or sacrifice their autonomy under corporate control to remain viable.

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 Board of Directors 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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