CALIFORNIA — More than a dozen college student newspapers across the country published the same editorial Dec. 5 in a coordinated effort to decry the University of Southern California’s decision to block the reappointment of The Daily Trojan‘s former Editor in Chief Zach Fox.
Fox was re-elected by The Daily Trojan staff for a second term, but the school’s media board, which has final say over the appointment, refused to approve his re-election. The editorial called the act an interference that “creates a chilling effect” upon the student press.
College student newspapers from 18 schools including Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, University of Michigan, University of Oregon, Louisiana State University, University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University contributed to and ran the editorial, the Harvard Crimson reported.
“For the most part college newspapers are isolated from each other,” said Michael Broukhim, editorial co-chair of the Harvard Crimson. “That so many people from different parts of country were willing to work [on the editorial] is a testament to the passion people felt about the issue.”
While staff members of Harvard Crimson were the organizers behind the editorial, Broukhim said the final product was the work of as many as 20 people from student papers around the country. The editorial piece was created through an online program that allowed for numerous collaborators to make edits or suggestions on the draft.
Fox, who was editor in chief this fall, had previously requested information from the university on the Daily Trojan‘s finances and was pushing for financial transparency. Fox was also planning a reorganization of senior editor positions, the editorial said. But USC Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson described Fox’s vision to be “irreconcilable with the Media Board’s outline for the role,” the editorial said.
The editorial questioned whether the board’s decision to deny Fox the post was a form of retaliation for “his probing questions.” The editorial also stated that campus newspapers cannot practice good journalism under “the yoke of administrators’ censorship.”
But James Grant, spokesperson for USC, said that the situation with Fox has been misconstrued by the student editorial. Grant said the media board did not accept Fox’ re-election because he was seeking changes to his position as editor in chief at the same time he was applying. He said the board did not deem the changes appropriate at the time. Grant said the administration is open to Fox’s proposal and have created a task force to review them.
“[The university] is open discussion, but [the changes] should not just be a unilateral decision of just one editor in chief,” Grant said. “[The university has] a strong record of providing editorial freedom for the Daily Trojan and we take that very seriously.”
According to the editorial, Fox has resigned from his fall position as editor in chief. Jeremy Breecher, who served as the Daily Trojan’s editorial director and who Fox supported to be his successor, was elected and approved Dec. 5 to be The Daily Trojan‘s next editor in chief.