ILLINOIS — A privately owned student newspaper at theUniversity of Illinois at Chicago fired its news editor after she wrote aneditorial criticizing the bookstore and objected to the paper’s decisionnot to publish a story.
Inna Rubin, former news editor at The Flame, wrote an editorialabout a story one of her writers did about the university bookstore. The storyexamined the reasons students chose to buy their books from the bookstore, butalso accused the bookstore of failing to comply with parts of the 2008 HigherEducation Opportunity Act.
In an interview with WGN television, Rubin later claimed the originalarticle was spiked due to pressure from the bookstore. She said in the interviewshe was told her job was still safe despite publishing the editorial. Flamepublisher Maggie Malone fired Rubin on Sept. 21.
David Hundley, an attorney and spokesman for The Flame,saidthe paper decided not to publish the article because the premise was factuallyinaccurate. The Higher Education Opportunity Act spells out obligations for thepublisher, not bookstores.
“The main problem with the article was that it contained a prettyfundamental misunderstanding of the Higher Education Opportunity Act,”Hundley said.
The final decision not to publish the article came from Darryl Brehm,director of media operations at The Flame, Hundley wrote in an email.
“The observation that the Bookstore article was not print-ready wasmade by [Brehm], in conversation with and with the understanding and agreementof Chicago Flame Editor-in-Chief Fae Rabin,” he wrote.
In a letter published in The Flame addressing the situation, Malonewrote that the decision not to run the article was not made because of pressurefrom the bookstore.
“I assure you that the decision not to run the bookstore article wasmade without regard to any objection the UIC bookstore may have had to itscontent,” she wrote.
But Rubin has a different take on the situation.
“Our publisher pulled the article because we had ads from thebookstore, big ads from the bookstore,” she said.
After the editorial ran, Rubin said the marketing director and publishertold her they would be reviewing all content in the paper before it went toprint.
However, Hundley said content is pretty much determined by the students.But after this situation, he said Malone planned to more closely scrutinizecontent until she again felt comfortable with the judgment of the studenteditors.
Frank LoMonte, an attorney and executive director of the StudentPress Law Center, said the First Amendment and Illinois state law protects anindividual’s rights only against government agencies, not a privatenewspaper.
“The right belongs to the editor and the publisher, not theindividual staff writers,” he said.
The Flame is a for-profit independent student newspaper. The paperdoes not receive any direct funding from the University of Illinois at Chicago,Hundley said, and it is housed off-campus.