Fla. college officials replace disbanded student newspaper with new publication

FLORIDA — After a spring of controversy between administrators at Manatee Community College and editors of the student newspaper the Lance, that publication has been dissolved, and in its place a new student newspaper has been established with recognition from the administration.

In a letter sent out May 20, Manatee Community College Dean Darlene Wedler-Johnson informed student editors of the Lance that she was canceling Journalism 1400, a laboratory class that published the paper.

Tension between the administration and student editors began in February, after Lance newspaper adviser Doug Osman required students to submit the paper for prior review, said former Lance reporter Sarah Zell. Osman no longer is the journalism adviser at Manatee Community College.

In addition to canceling the class, Wedler-Johnson said she had canceled the funds used to print the Lance. She said in her letter that she was rescinding student funds that were allocated to the Lance for the 2004-2005 school year. These funds would be returned once the administration had reviewed the college journalism program, Wedler-Johnson said.

Last month Manatee spokeswoman Kathy Walker said the Lance could not exist without the journalism class. But Walker said in an earlier news release that the school’s intention was to resume publishing a student newspaper in the fall.

Student editors say the Lance is a separate entity from the class and cannot be canceled because it is supported by student funds.

“The paper doesn’t go away if you dissolve the class,” said Mike Gimignani, former managing editor of the Lance.

The administration invited Manatee Community College journalism students to a meeting on Sept. 1. When Zell and appointed Lance Editor in Chief Jim Malec attended the meeting, they realized that the administration was planning a new newspaper, they said.

At a second meeting on Sept. 8 the journalism students were told there were two options for a student newspaper: a student publication receiving space on campus and funding or an independent paper receiving nothing, Gimignani said. They chose the former.

Malec said he did not realize the Lance no longer existed at Manatee Community College until students on the staff of the new publication offered him a senior staff writer position at the new paper. ” I [had] assumed as the [appointed] editor in chief I would now take over that role with this new staff,” Malec said.

“I didn’t really see it as a new publication,” he added.

On Sept. 24, Veritas, the new paper, was approved for more than $16,000 from the student activities budget review.

“MCC has created, in essence, this new publication using students from these classes to replace the Lance,” Gimignani said. Veritas editors could not to be reached for comment.

Walker said the new student newspaper has nothing to do with the administration.

“It is a student club and they’ve organized that way,” she said. “We’re as hands-off as we can be.”

Zell, Gimignani and Malec are still printing the Lance — but on 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper instead of newsprint and with the pressure of finding an off-campus site to house the newsroom.

Veritas staff writers told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune they welcome the competition from the Lance. But the Lance will struggle to compete, due to the lack of support and funding from the school, Malec said.

“We want all the rights that [the administration] have given to this other paper. It’s fine for them to have those rights, but [the administration] needs to recognize we should have those as well,” Zell said.

Student editors of the Lance are deciding whether to take legal action against the college.

“I think that case law has pretty much shown that they can’t withdraw student money once it’s been allocated for a student newspaper without the consent of that newspaper,” Gimignani said. “The students had no say in this.”

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