Student newspapersaround the country published an editorial last month condemning the Universityof Southern California for creating a ”chilling effect” on collegemedia by blocking the re-election of USC Daily Trojan Editor in Chief ZachFox.
Eighteen college newspapers published the same editorial on Dec. 5in support of Fox, who had been re-elected by the Daily Trojan’s staff butwas not approved by the university’s media board.
”This was avery clear case where any of us, as a journalists, felt our journalisticintegrity would have been compromised, if the same thing happened in ourschool,” said Harvard Crimson Co-Editorial Chair Michael Broukhim, one ofthe editorial’s writer.
Fox resigned from his fall position inprotest of the board’s decision and Jeremy Beecher, who was serving as theDaily Trojan’s editorial director, was approved to take hisplace.The editorial questioned whether the university’s action wasin retaliation for changes proposed by Fox, including ”probingquestions” into the newspaper’s budget and a push for financialtransparency.
Fox also wanted to reorganize student editorpositions.
During his tenure, Fox said he requested more information fromthe university about the Daily Trojan’s finances. He said he wasrepeatedly rejected but continued to advocate for financialtransparency.
”As a journalist, I’m always pushing to getthings revealed to people,” Fox said. ”I think an editor can onlyeffectively lead the paper if he knows where the resources are and where toallocate them.”
Fox also said he saw a need for the editor inchief to focus on what he calls ”bigger picture goals” for the DailyTrojan. Some of the changes he proposed included creating another managingeditor position for day-to-day production, which would allow the editor in chiefto focus on long-term goals.
Fox’s application also said hisproposals would ”keep editors sane, but also improve the newspaper.”He said his staff was supportive of his ideas and he was eventuallyre-elected to the position.
Adviser Larry Pryor stated in a memo that the votefor Fox was 37 to 28, indicating a lack of unanimous support.Theuniversity’s media board still had to approve Fox’s re-election. Theboard, which consists of students, faculty and administrators, approves policyaffecting the Daily Trojan. But Fox’s application never reachedthe group.
Michael L. Jackson, the university’s vice president of studentaffairs and chair of the board, refused to pass on Fox’s application tothe media board stating that Fox’s goals were ”irreconcilable withthe media board’s outline for the role,” according to the Dec. 5editorial.
James Grant, a spokesperson for the university, said thatJackson deemed Fox’s proposals ”inappropriate” because theyhad not been properly discussed.
“No one else has ever applied forthe job and then wanted to drastically change it,” Grant said. ”Ithas never come up and it was determined that it was not the wisestapproach.”
But Fox said his proposals were not so radical that itwarranted the rejection of his application. He also said he has not beeninformed about what part of the position’s current job description wouldnot have been fulfilled with the proposed changes.
”I knew what thejob entailed, knew what it took to run the paper, and I thought we would be ableto do that while achieving more goals,” Fox said.
USC journalismprofessor Bryce Nelson, who is also a member of the media board, said hedisagreed with how the university went against the votes of the studentstaff.
”I think students should be the people to pick theireditor,” Nelson said. ”The administration should be careful inoverruling the wishes of the newspaper staff.”
Grant also said theuniversity has taken Fox’s proposals seriously.
The Student Newspaper TaskForce, created to analyze some of Fox’s proposed goals, recently publisheda report recommending that the editor in chief and other senior editors havemore input on the Daily Trojan’s annual operational budget. The reportalso stated that the there is a need for its leadership to ”re-examine theroles” of the editorial staff in order to update job descriptions asnecessary.
Fox said he hopes that the recommendations will be approvedand implemented.In a statement, Jackson said he would consider the taskforce’s recommendation and make a decision in January.
Among the student newspapers that collaborated on and ran the editorialregarding editor selection at the University of Southern Californiawere:The Brown Daily HeraldThe Cavalier Daily (U. Virginia)TheCornell Daily SunThe Daily Californian (California-Berkley)The DailyEvergreen (Washington State)The Daily Illini (U. Illinois)The DailyOrange (Syracuse U.)The Daily PennsylvanianThe Daily PrincetonianTheDaily Reveille (Louisiana State U.)The Daily SundialThe Daily Texan (U.Texas)The Daily Trojan (Southern California)The Harvard CrimsonTheMichigan Daily The Oregon Daily EmeraldThe Stanford DailyThe YaleDaily News