Eighteen college papers published a joint editorial yesterday protesting the forced resignation of the editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan, the student newspaper of the University of California (USC)—an effort intended to send a message to the USC administration and the collegiate journalism community.
The piece, which also ran in The Crimson, opposed the suspension of USC senior Zach Fox’s application seeking reelection to the top content post at the school’s daily paper.
Though the paper’s staff supported his election, Fox’s application, which encouraged budget transparency and fiscal independence, was withheld from the USC’s media board by USC Vice President for Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson, an administrator who also serves as head of the board. Media board approval was required to finalize Fox’s election.
According to a memo by Larry Prior, who sits on USC’s media board, Fox’s platform proposed constructive ideas on an unrealistic timetable.
The joint editorial opposing USC’s actions drew a team of editors from many collegiate publications convened via an online colloborative word-procssing program to draft an editorial blasting Jackson’s move, said Crimson Editorial Chair Michael B. Broukhim ’07.
“The first version was six hundred words, at some point it had ballooned to 1,100 words, and the final version was 600 completely different words than the first,” said Broukhim, who spearheaded the effort.
According to the document’s history on Google Docs, which Broukhim made available to a Crimson reporter, the piece was subject to hundreds of revisions by 36 individuals. The only Ivy League daily papers that have not published the opinion are The Columbia Daily Spectator and The Dartmouth.
The Dartmouth, which is not printing until after the holidays, is expected to publish the editorial online today, according to Broukhim.
“It was a very strong message to administrators that student journalists need to be treated with as much respect as independent journalists,” said Jeff Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of Louisiana State University’s Daily Reveille.
The editorial defended Fox’s initial proposals and emphasized the broader implications of the USC administration’s decision.
“USC’s action diminishes the role of student journalists across the nation,” the editorial read, adding that Jackson had infringed upon the “fundamental value of the press.”
The joint editorial won praise from journalists in the USC community.
“I think it’s very valuable for national college press to focus on this individual college situation,” said Bryce Nelson ’59, a USC professor of journalism who is also a former Crimson president. “These threats to free management to the press exist everywhere in some way or another.”
Participants in the collaborative effort recognized the rarity of journalistic teamwork in typically insular communities.
“Many college newspapers are concerned about their independence and bristle at taking content from others,” said Mike Slaven, editor-in-chief of the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily.
Daily Trojan staffers responded positively to the editorial.
“I just can’t reiterate how important it is to have this sort of nationwide support behind us as we try to gain some sort of transparency,” Fox said yesterday. “I hope the university sees that this is a goal that students across the nations are backing.”
USC student Jeremy Beecher, who was elected Friday to assume Fox’s former post, said he will continue to support long-term goals of editorial and economic independence.
“It’s nice to have all this media to keep a close eye on the school as we undertake these reforms,” he said.