President of Notre Dame challenges student newspaper’s independence

INDIANA — After 34 years of independence, a campus newspaper ata Catholic university could lose control over its advertising guidelinesor be forced to move off campus.

Rev. Edward Malloy, the president of the University of Notre Dame, challengedthe rights of the campus newspaper, The Observer, to choose theadvertisements it runs after the paper published a series of gay and lesbianads the university disagreed with.

According to Mike Connolly, editor of The Observer, Notre Damehas never challenged the content of the paper before, but Malloy told Connollythat the university is the paper’s publisher and that the newspaper’s traditionalindependent status is a not set in stone. Connolly said he believes theschool has always served as the paper’s landlord, bookkeeper and accountant,but never its publisher.

Connolly concedes, however, that there has never been a contract betweenthe school and the newspaper guaranteeing the paper’s independence. Rather,he said, it is a “familial agreement” bound only by unsigned letters thatsay The Observer has complete editorial control.

According to Connolly, the faculty senate backed The Observerin a 21-1 vote saying that the paper should remain completely independentwith no oversight from the university — as it has existed for 34 years.

In September, Malloy created an ad hoc committee made up of professorsand deans to evaluate the relationship between the university and the studentpaper. One of the members of the committee, Denny Moore, who is head ofpublic relations at Notre Dame, was one of the first news editors for TheObserver. Connolly said Moore was an ally on the committee and madesure Connolly’s arguments were clear in the report.

The report was completed and given to Malloy at the end of September.Connolly said he expected the worst, but Malloy has yet to release eitherthe report or his decision in the matter.

If Malloy does decide to take over even partial control of The Observer,Connolly said he would consider taking the newspaper off campus, althoughthat move is unlikely.