VIRGINIA — After the first issue of Hampton University’s student newspaper was postponed in September due to the lack of an adviser, the Script now has three new advisers, new editorial policies and a better staff morale, adviser Kia Dupree said.
Under the new policies, the private university cannot halt the circulation of or confiscate the paper. Newspaper advisers are carefully screened for a satisfactory journalistic background. In addition, an advisory board composed of faculty and students has been established to resolve future issues between student editors and advisers.
In October 2003, a struggle for editorial control began when the Script planned to publish a story about the school cafeteria receiving citations for health code violations. JoAnn Haysbert, the university’s then president, requested that a memo written by her run on the front page, beside the story. When Script editors denied Haysbert’s request, she confiscated the issue.
In response to the October 2003 controversy, 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.
At the beginning of the 2004-2005 academic year, the advisory board was notified that former Script editorial adviser Kim LeDuff “would not be working as an adviser anymore,” university spokeswoman Yuri Rogers said. The board subsequently began its hiring process.
By Sept. 29, the deadline for the first issue of the Script, no adviser had been appointed. “The [Hampton Script handbook] clearly states that the Script cannot be published without a Hampton adviser,” Rogers said.
The Script has had trouble, said College Media Advisers President Kathy Lawrence, because administrators have a great deal of control on private campuses.
“It’s probably within the school’s rights to [halt printing of the paper], but its certainly not good journalistic practice,” Lawrence said. “Given the history they would have provided an adviser for the paper quickly and tried to get their act back together.”
As a result, the Script staff was not allowed to publish its first issue of the year until Oct. 12, when the new advisers were selected.
“I would think that three advisers might be overkill,” Lawrence said. “It looks as though it will be heavily reviewed.”
But senior Talia Buford, editor of the Script said she likes the multiple advisers, although she does not think she has ever seen the advisers all together at once.
“They basically let us run the show, and they say ‘Where do you need us,’” Buford said.
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. Pinkston-Betts was a Script adviser during the 2003-2004 school year.
Smith himself said he tries to be available to the students particularly on the night before printing. “[The paper] has been looking better,” Smith said.
Smith said there might be only three issues of the Script published this semester. Normally the Script publishes seven issues per semester.
“[Working at the Script] [has] still been pretty hard. With all of the confusion in the beginning of the year, it really strained the staff,” Buford said. “Some people quit, and we’re trying to fill those positions.”
Buford said the relationship between the Script and the administration seemed to be going well.
“We haven’t had anything to test it,” Buford said.
The advisory council, designed to help conflicts between the Script and the administration, is another layer of troubleshooting the Script can go through before it must take an idea or problem with the paper to the administration, Buford said.
“They’re working the best that they can, and hopefully it’ll prove to be the best for the Script,” she added.