Hampton U. paper prints first issue after two-week delay

VIRGINIA — Just weeks after Hampton University officials halted publication of the student newspaper, blaming the paper’s lack of an adviser, three new advisers have been hired and the paper printed its first issue after a two-week delay.

And now, with new policies for the paper put into effect, clearer guidelines should help the newspaper avoid similar predicaments from recurring.

The paper’s ability to publish was put in question last year when acting university President JoAnn Haysbert removed an October 2003 issue of the Script over a dispute with student editors. Script editors had denied Haysbert’s request to run her letter to the editor on the front page, next to a story about the school cafeteria receiving 30 citations for health code violations.

In response, an 11-member task force appointed by Haysbert and consisting of Hampton University faculty and journalism students spent six weeks creating new policies for the paper.

According to the policies, the private university cannot confiscate or halt the circulation of the paper, the newspaper advisers must have a satisfactory journalistic background and an advisory board composed of faculty and students should be established to resolve issues between student editors and advisers.

The advisory board began its hiring process for a new adviser in September when the board was notified that former Script editorial adviser Kim LeDuff “would not be working as an adviser anymore,” university spokeswoman Yuri Rogers said.

“The [Hampton Script handbook] clearly states that the Script cannot be published without a Hampton adviser,” Rogers said. “It was not a First Amendment issue at all.”

But as a result, the Script staff was not allowed to publish its first issue of the year until Oct. 12.

The Hampton Script’s three new advisers are Doug Smith, a journalism professor and former sports reporter at USA Today, and English professors Christina Pinkston-Betts and Kia Dupree.

The Script had planned to publish its first issue Sept. 29, Script Editor in Chief Talia Buford said. Buford said the staff was frustrated because by the time the new advisers had been appointed, many of their articles for the first issue were no longer timely.

“I don’t think the fact that we missed our first release date is happenstance,” Script copy editor Alexander LeMaine told the Black College Wire. “I believe this is somehow a plot to restrict the Script, and that this whole predicament is another vehicle to inhibit our First Amendment rights.”

But the advent of the new advisers and publishing the Script’s first issue has had an effect. Among the Script staff, Buford said, “I’m already starting to see the morale improve.”

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