Daily Texan purchases libel insurance, prior review free

TEXAS — For the first time in more than 30 years, the student newspaper at the University of Texas at Austin is going to press without being reviewed by a faculty member.

The change came last week after the Texas Board of Regents relinquished control of the newspaper and liability for its content to the Texas Student Media Board in February.

Richard Finnell, adviser of The Daily Texan for 12 years, said this is a “big step” for the paper, which has served the campus for 107 years.

“This makes the Texan more in line with other college newspapers,” he said.

The student media board voted in March to scrap the review policy but the change did not go into effect until the summer semester when the paper secured libel insurance, said Kathy Lawrence, director of student media.

Finnell said the biggest problem with the prior review policy was that it applied only to the Texan, for other student media were not around in the ’70s when the policy was created.

Before the switch, Finnell worked until 2 or 3 a.m. every day, reading copy on the computer, on the proofs and again at the end of the night, he said.

“My primary job duty was to keep [students] out of legal trouble,” Finnell said.

Finnell now reviews stories only when students ask him to. He also provides critiques after publication, gives four or five lectures to the staff about media law and brings in professional journalists to speak.

Finnell said that in the 35 years of prior review, advisers never changed content without consent from student editors.

Students at the paper say they do not notice much of a difference.

“Things are going on exactly as they were before,” said Mike Elliott, managing editor at the Texan. “The only difference is my adviser gets to go home early.”

But Lawrence said the change is a “wonderful thing.”

“I asked [Finnell] how it was going, and he said, ‘I’m getting bored.’ He was kidding,” she said.

By Jenny Redden, SPLC staff writer

  • University of Texas eliminating prior review Report, Spring 2007
  • Texas Student Media Board votes to eliminate prior review News Flash, 3/8/2007
  • Texas Student Publications Board looks to end board-mandated prior review News Flash, 1/22/2007
  • Daily Texan Student Publications Board pushing to end mandatory prior review News Flash, 12/6/2006