INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists supports the decision by Central New Mexico Community College to reinstate its student newspaper. The college removed copies of the paper from newsstands and suspended The CNM Chronicle following the publication of a sex issue.
SPJ President Sonny Albarado sent a letter to the college president, Kathie Winograd, reiterating SPJ’s displeasure with the initial actions against the publication and expressing satisfaction with the reversal. The letter follows this news release.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, 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. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.
Kathie Winograd, President Central New Mexico Community College 525 Buena Vista Drive, SE Albuquerque, NM 87106
April 23, 2013
Dear Ms. Winograd,
On behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest and oldest organization representing 8,000 journalists, I would like to commend you for respecting the rights of The CNM Chronicle by rescinding your decision to stop publication.
College students are prone to pushing the limits on taste, and the sex edition no doubt raised a few eyebrows. But confiscating newspapers, suspending publication and chastising students for expressing themselves, even in uncomfortable ways, is not the solution. We are glad you reconsidered and returned the newspapers and reinstated the staff.
It is no doubt difficult to serve as president of a university in a role similar to publisher but at the same time as the “government.” You are responsible for providing students a public forum to express themselves, yet if you interfere, it is tantamount to prior restraint – similar to Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry stopping publication of the Albuquerque Journal.
We also agree with your decision to look at ways of improving journalism education at Central New Mexico Community College. The best college newspapers typically employ a full-time adviser experienced in journalism who is shielded from punishment for students’ content-based news decisions. We encourage you to adopt a policy declaring the student paper a public forum free from censorship, which also has the benefit of protecting the college from libel suits – if the college doesn’t control the content then it can’t be held liable.
In addition, the Society of Professional Journalists would be happy to provide training for your student journalists, as well as for journalism professionals in Albuquerque. We all have the same interests in mind: Training students to become the best journalists and citizens they can be.
Yours truly, Sonny Albarado, President Society of Professional Journalists firstname.lastname@example.org