USC implements changes to student newspaper’s policies recommended by former editor

CALIFORNIA — Administrators at the University of Southern California have agreed to implement a former editor’s recommendations that were submitted in his platform for reappointment, which was rejected by the school.

The changes include increased salaries for the staff and more transparency regarding the paper’s budget. Former Editor in Chief Zach Fox offered the suggestions in his attempt at a second term as editor, which was blocked by the university’s media board.

In making the changes, administrators are also disputing the claim that the denial of Fox’s application was because of the changes he raised in his platform.

The move was met by outrage from college newspapers across the country, about 20 of which published an editorial in December 2006 chastising the university and questioning whether the decision was because of Fox’s “probing questions.”

A university spokesman said that the editorials had misconstrued the situation and that Fox’s second term was denied because he was seeking to make changes to the position of editor at the same time he was applying for the job. The university established a task force to review Fox’s proposals, most of which were approved earlier this month.

“It was assumed by people outside of the campus that there was some major First Amendment controversy here, and that wasn’t the case,” said Larry Pryor, associate journalism professor and adviser to The Daily Trojan. “Granted, Zach’s application to be editor was denied, but it wasn’t for the reasons that people seem to have concluded.

“The ideas that he produced were good and we all agreed they were good. And it was the way he wanted to implement them where there was fallout.”

Among the measures are salaries for photographers and writers, budget transparency and an increase in the paper’s online capabilities.

Fox, a senior, said he believes that overall the changes will be good for the paper, but he expressed trepidation about the implementation of the changes, especially the university’s funding of them.

“They keep telling us to be patient,” said Fox. “Just the way they handled my election last semester doesn’t leave me with much confidence.”

Fox, who described his reaction to being denied a second term as “crushed,” said he intends to work with the paper’s leaders to see that the changes are put in place properly.

The measures will not be implemented immediately, Pryor said, mainly because the paper’s budget has already been established for this year. And some of the measures, such as the expanded Web site, will take time to execute, he said.

“If you’re going to build a good student Web site, it’s going to take a lot of training. It’s going to take student journalists learning new skills. There are some skills you can’t just pick up in a week.”

By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer

  • College student newspapers around the country run editorial in support of former USC editor News Flash, 12/7/2006