WEST VIRGINIA — The Mercury may not be rising this fall atGlenville State College if The Mercury Strategic Plan Task Forcefollows through with all of its recommendations for the school’s studentnewspaper.
Christopher Williams, office manager of The Mercury, said thecollege’s president formed the committee to make some major changes tothe paper, including a revision of the newspaper’s charter and developmentof a publication committee that Williams said could regulate story contentbefore publication.
The task force is looking into areas of the paper’s operation, includingits budget, format, mission and purpose, number of issues, production schedule,staffing policies and adviser selection as well as ways to “ensure thatit meets the mission” of the school.
He said the committee is also considering moving the newspaper officefrom its current location and totally eliminating the print version ofthe paper, leaving a solely online publication.
Williams said among the explanations given for the changes is the factthat the paper’s budget, which is funded by student fees, is being affectedby a decline in enrollment.
However, he also said school officials have been upset with criticalarticles The Mercury has printed and thinks the administration’sview that the paper has not done “an adequate job of informing studentson campus” really disguises its desire to control content.
“They don’t want us to print anything derogatory to the university,”Williams said. “[With the changes] it won’t be a student newspaper anymore.It will basically be a P.R. paper. Students will work on the paper itselfbut they will be told what stories they can go out and get and what storiesthey can print.”
Thomas Powell, the college’s president, said the administration hasno desire to censor the paper’s content but instead wants to see improvementsin the quality of the publication, which he said currently falls belowjournalistic and ethical standards.
Powell said the numerous complaints the school received about the paper’squality — including issues of grammar, spelling, accuracy and ethics-ledhim to develop the task force in order to provide The Mercury andits staff with structure and training to “make sure we have something that,at the end of the day, everybody can be happy with.”
Williams and another staff member are included on the task force, buthe said the administrators are the “key players.” The committee is stilldeliberating the changes, and as a result, Williams does not know if thepaper will be able to publish once school begins in the fall.
“We won’t be able to put out an issue without an editor, a staff ora location,” he said.
Powell said he was originally supposed to receive the task force’s reportby August 15, which would have given the staff time to produce a paper,but that the committee has asked for an extension.