MISSOURI –Student reporters at a Missouri community college were surprised to receive ane-mail from the board president demanding they not print an article intoday’s paper.
Then they were shocked. Then disappointed. Thenangry.
”I feel we were censored,” said James Foutch,editor of The Eagle at Ozarks TechnicalCommunity College in Springfield, Mo. ”I felt we had been treated likechildren.”
The staff of The Eagle was planning onprinting a question-and-answer article that included the results of surveys thepaper had sent to the six finalists who are running for college president intoday’s issue.
On Monday, staff members received an e-mailfrom college board President Jackie McKinsey saying, ”PLEASE STOP THEARTICLE. YOU ARE NOT TO USE THE ‘INTERVIEW’ MATERIAL.”
McKinsey said she e-mailed faculty adviser KellyAnthony and the staff of The Eagletelling them not to print the candidates’ responses out of fairnessto the three candidates who did not respond to thequestionnaire.
”We’ve been striving to be honest andfair,” McKinsey said. ”[The article] wasn’t appropriate atthis time.”
Students sent the questionnaires to the candidateslast Thursday and requested responses by the next morning, Foutchsaid.
McKinsey said one candidate called the board search committeeconsultant to express concern that he would not have enough time to answer thequestions. The consultant advised McKinsey to instruct candidates not to answerthe questionnaire.
According to anarticle in theSpringfield News-Leader, the questions included, ”How should the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the college president function?” and ”Share three goals for OTC that you will actively worktoward.”
McKinsey said she was not acting as board president,but as chair of the search committee when she instructedThe Eagle staff and adviser not to print the article.
”All that action had to do with trying tomake sure the process had been fair,” McKinsey said. ”That’swhat was foremost in my mind.”
But in trying to be”fair” to the candidates, McKinsey was not fair toThe Eagle, Foutch said.
”We were trying to do a really feel-good ‘here’s the candidates, meet them.’ We weren’t doing anything wrong,” he said.
McKinsey said she does not think heractions amount to censorship. She also said that she does not know much aboutthe role of The Eagle and was surprisedto learn the paper does not operate as part of a college course. She said itwould be appropriate for a local newspaper to print a similar article because aprofessional reporter has ”judgment and training.”
The Eagle was distributed today minus the candidates’ responses to the questions. As of Thursday afternoon, Foutch said the staff was planning on distributing an explanation of why the questionnaires did not run in the issue.
Foutch said the staff would also like to write an article withstudents’ opinions of what the role of a campus newspaper should be.
Foutch said he is clear on what the role of The Eagle is.
”To be a voice for the students,” he said.