SPJ President Robert Leger, 417/836-1113 or email@example.com
Task force members:
Jay Evensen, the Deseret News, 801/237-2185
Ted Pease, Utah State University, 435/797-3292
Charles Zobell, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 702/383-0293
Joel Campbell, Brigham Young University, 801/422-2125
INDIANAPOLIS -- Southern Utah University should create a student publications advisory board that ensures the student newspaper is free from any censorship, a Society of Professional Journalists task force says in a report released today.
A publications board should provide counsel, the report says, but should not infringe in any way on the constitutional rights of students to produce a newspaper that speaks for and to students.
The task force suggested the board include students, faculty members and at least one working journalist. But whatever its makeup, the board should have no pre-publication control over The University Journal.
“We are proposing a board that could provide constructive criticism and advice to student journalists while, at the same time, help non-journalists better understand the role of a free press on campus,” said task force member Jay Evensen, editorial page editor of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. “SUU President Steven Bennion made it clear to us that he values a free and independent voice on campus. A board similar to the one we have suggested would lend strength to those convictions.”
The task force also suggested continued conversation on campus about the newspaper’s new role as an independent student voice after years of being a university “house organ.”
SPJ President Robert Leger appointed the task force after a story about limited access to condoms on the Southern Utah campus sparked angry letters and comments from university President Steven Bennion and trustee Dane Leavitt. Some of the comments suggested the university should exercise greater control over the content of the newspaper.
Task force members included Evensen; Charles Zobell, managing editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal; Edward C. Pease, head of the Department of Journalism and Communications at Utah State University; and Joel C. Campbell, assistant professor of journalism at Brigham Young University. The four visited Cedar City on Oct. 28, where they met with Bennion, members of his administration, the newspaper staff and the newspapers’ advisers.
Bennion, in a written response, said the report will be provided to a committee working on the form and function of a publications board.
“I will reiterate that Southern Utah University is strongly committed to freedom of the press and the need to provide an excellent educational environment for the training of journalists,” Bennion wrote. “That is the very reason we changed the nature of the University Journal from a university paper to more of a student paper this past year. As a University we are opposed to censorship ... ”
Leger and task force members said they welcomed Bennion’s support for an unfettered student press and will watch to see that support put into tangible form in the creation of a publications board. They also expect no students or faculty members to be punished for supporting students’ free speech and free press rights.
The University Journal is a better, more interesting paper than it was two years ago,” Leger said. “With the support of advisers Paul Husselbee and John Gholdston, the student editors and reporters are aggressively pursuing stories of interest to students. They are learning valuable lessons. But they will continue to learn these lessons only if the newspaper is truly a student voice, operated without fear of a censor’s pen.”
Husselbee is a member of SPJ’s national board of directors.
Copies of the task force report and Bennion’s reply are available at www.spj.org.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.
View SPJ Task Force Files