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Cedarville and prior restraint

So, apparently the students on staff at Cedarville University's student newspaper won't stand for the PR department looking over their shoulder.
"...the PR department’s excessive attempt to censor Cedars necessarily violates our operating model, and the Cedars staff has thus decided to cease publication," the students write. "Review by the public relations department undermines our ability to think critically and engage culture. We grieve the loss of free expression and healthy discourse once found in your newspaper, traits that ought to characterize all vibrant institutions of higher learning."
(More over at World Blog.)

Sure, it's a private institution, and sure, it's a bunch of students who are still learning the ropes. But this is much farther than most (if not all) colleges take their privilege of reviewing the student newspaper. Especially since it's the PR department that's doing this. It smacks a lot of prior restraint (which is a term used of the government, I know, but it seems to be analogous to this context). I know that if our PR department here were involved with the student newspaper, I'd have a lot of suspicions about its authenticity and its ability to let students complain (i.e. editorialize) about aspects of the university's decisions etc.

Incidentally I just applied for a job on our campus paper's staff.

EDIT: Just to clarify, I'm not wishing that students had free reign with the campus paper. They're students, after all. But the faculty advisor is the person who ought to be doing this review stuff, not PR.... it's the principle of the thing. We college journalists still have to understand the ideas behind the independence of the press (i.e. no prior restraint) and this sort of thing is not going to help that.

Comments

Guitarlady said…
Going through the PR Dept was probably a mistake but it sounds like the faculty advisor wasn't quite doing his/her job if the following was the case:
Cedars attracted attention last fall after the Viewpoints section ran columns disapproving of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, arguing that "there was nothing wrong with homosexuality," and suggesting that "abortion wasn't a black and white issue," said a writer for the newspaper who preferred to remain anonymous.Those opinions would be in conflict with the Bible which the university holds as the highest standard. From this paragraph, it appears that the advisor wasn't doing a good job. After all, a self-proclaimed Christian university has certain standards to uphold.
RS said…
Still shouldn't have gotten PR involved. Instead, check on what's being taught in the journalism classes.

If these were part of an opposing-viewpoints set (as it looks like the tipping-point article was), I can understand how they got published. That's the nature of an editorial section.

I'm not sure how much control the faculty advisor has over content. My impression is that the advisor tries not to interfere too much with the content of a newspaper; more there to help the students figure out how to deal with the content. Generally it's much more a student-run thing. Works the same way with yearbook.

Did that make any sense?
Guitarlady said…
Oh sure. But a pro-homosexual viewpoint probably shouldn't be in a Christian campus newspaper, assuming of course that's what it was. I can understand having "Opposing Viewpoints" articles. But I would think they would steer clear of anything anti-biblical.
RS said…
Sure, it's a Christian college with a (theoretically) Christian campus paper. That doesn't get anywhere near justifying PR's involvement. They ought not to be doing the review; that's the advisor's job, and if the advisor's not doing it well, that's the communication department's problem. Not PR's.

If you cut out everything anti-Biblical in the campus paper, you'll probably get lots of people saying the paper's not credible 'cause it never presents whatever side is the secular one, not even for rebuttal. Not to mention slim pickings for an opposing-viewpoints series.

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