MISSOURI — After a brief hiatus, Ozarks Technical Community College’s student newspaper will resume publication with a promise from college president Hal Higdon to remain “hands off” regarding editorial content.
The Eagle ran into trouble in early 2006 after sending out questionnaires to six candidates — including Higdon — during the school’s search for a new president. Jackie McKinsey, then president of the board of trustees, ordered the newspaper not to publish the responses.
McKinsey told the Student Press Law Center in 2006 that candidates weren’t given enough time to prepare their answers. She told the newspaper not to print the responses out of fairness to three candidates who could not respond, she said.
McKinsey later told local newspaper The Springfield News-Leader that she regretted if her actions were taken as censorship.
Higdon — who filled out the newspaper’s questionnaire — said past incidents did not affect his new policy for The Eagle. Higdon said he wanted to allow students the freedom to learn.
“That’s just the experience I’ve had other colleges,” Higdon said. “It is a learning process, and I have found that some ways they’ve learned was to let people go out and make their own mistakes.”
Higdon also changed rules governing who can be on the paper’s staff. Previously, students were required to be in a journalism class; today, positions are open to anyone. Higdon said the newspaper also moved from the English department to the communications department.
And The Eagle has a new adviser, David Fotopulos, a full-time instructor in the communications department.
Fotopulos said he is excited about helping restart The Eagle, although he does not know if he will be the permanent advisor. The newspaper stalled after student participation trailed off, Fotopulos said.
“This year we are just going to do one [issue] in October and one in December,” Fotopulos said. “We would like to see it go to a monthly publication, but that’s going to depend on budget and staff.”
The Eagle‘s $5,000 budget will be funded by the college, Higdon said. OTC is a commuter school, and advertising revenue is generally low, Higdon said.
Though Fotopulos said getting censored did not have anything to do with the newspaper falling dormant, the staff would like to put the issue behind them.
“That’s past history. We’d like to just forget about that and move on,” Fotopulos said. “The editor is in control of content, the look, the layout. The administration has no say. It’s a student newspaper, just like it’s supposed to be.”
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