VIRGINIA — The print edition ofthe Captain’s Log, the student newspaper at Christopher NewportUniversity in Newport News, Va., could soon be no more.
During a May 11meeting with Dean of Students Kevin Hughes, staff members learned of a proposalto cut all funding from the newspaper’s print version.
The proposal, whichHughes said is part of a campus-wide effort to “go green,” would not takeeffect until the 2012-13 academic year.
The newspaper staff,however, is concerned that the administration’s move is a direct response tosome of their coverage over the past school year.
“[The newspaper’s]agenda this year has been investigative journalism,” Captain’sLog adviser Terry Lee said, adding that student journalists took“unbelievable heat for not sticking with the lighter, features reporting thatthe school is used to seeing.”
Editor-in-Chief EmilyCole cited multiple articles — one on the operational suspension of a campusfraternity and another on an admissions snafu in which 2,000 acceptance emails were mistakenly sent to applicants — that mayhave rubbed school officials the wrong way.
During a Feb. 23meeting with Provost Mark Padilla, Lee said he was told the student journalistswere working as “scandal mongers” through their reporting.
University spokeswomanLori Jacobs wrote in an email that the administration “neither likes nordislikes the student newspaper. The administration recognizes that the studentnewspaper has a right to publish what it sees fit, even if those storiescontain inaccuracies, fall short of standard journalistic practices or areoffensive to large segments of the university community.”
Since February, Leehas been called into three other meetings with university officials to discussthe newspaper. Though Lee has asked administrators to point to specificcoverage that could be considered objectionable, he said he has never beengiven a concrete response.
Cole said she is “noteven sure if our administration has even read any of our stories. It’s clearthat they don’t know what we do.”
Apart from a letteraddressing budgetary concerns that was presented to the Captain’sLog by Hughes, Cole said there has been no written correspondence onthe specifics of the proposal.
“Where this is allcoming from has been very mysterious,” Cole said. “He (Hughes) needs to tell usmore.”
In addition to cuttingfunds for the print edition of the Captain’s Log two yearsdown the road, the administration has also announced that it will not providefunding for Limelight and Currents — two literarymagazines — for the upcoming academic year.
In the letter Hughesgave to the Student Media Board —an umbrella organization that allocates funds between campus publications andserves as a link between student journalists and the administration — studentswere told that the school’s Student Activities Fee Appropriations Committee“recognizes the value of Limelights and Currents, [but has] agreater responsibility to the student body. In short, the committee is chargedwith making sound and responsible financial decisions.”
Both publicationsfailed to meet their target number of issues for the year, which was part ofthe rationale to cut funding, the letter said.
Students have alsobeen told by administrators that the university is looking to transform themedia board into a club, a move Lee said would severely inhibit its ability toprocure university funding and to “serve as a firewall for the freedom of thepress.”
Matthew Davenport, arising senior at CNU and chairman of the media board, agreed, adding that he iscurrently drafting a letter to Hughes addressing the need to maintain the boardin its current form.
“It’s no secret thatthe administration hates the Captain’s Log,” Davenport said.
Though funding for theprint edition is safe for at least one more year, Rachel Carter, thenewspaper’s business manager, said the student journalists are looking for“more longevity in the budget.”
Cole said theadministration has offered to provide funding for the newspaper to expand itsonline operations and technological resources, but has balked at the prospectof allocating those same funds to printing costs.
“The print edition hasmade the administration look bad around campus, and they apparently don’t likethat,” Cole said.
Printing costs for thenewspaper have decreased consistently over the past few years, she added.
“If the Captain’sLog wishes to pursue a print edition, the Captain’s Log mayrely on advertising revenue or outside sources of income,” Jacobs wrote. “Theuniversity does not seek to inhibit student speech. It is disappointing thatour student journalists apparently do not understand the university’scommitment to the Constitution and seek to impugn the administration’s motives.”
In addition to theschool’s campus-wide effort to increase environmental sustainability, Jacobssaid the move to an online-only platform would help bring the student newspaperin line with new media trends.
To help the Captain’sLog, Cole said she has already begun contacting newspaper alumni forsupport. She is also working on submitting requests under the Virginia Freedomof Information Act to top administrators at CNU, in hopes of getting moreinformation about the budget changes.
“I’m going to do whatit takes to make sure that there’s a paper to put out,” she said.
While Cole is readyfor a long fight, Lee said he is hoping for a speedy resolution.
“I don’t like howpolarized things have become. My feeling is that this has to sift out sooner orlater,” Lee said. “Either way, though, I’ll support my students in whateverthey choose to do.”