ECU, former student media director reach financial settlement

NORTH CAROLINA — A $31,200 settlement hasbeen reached between East Carolina University and its former student mediadirector, who was fired in January in the wake of a full-frontal streaker photoin the student newspaper he advised.

PaulIsom, who advised the East Caroliniannewspaper and the Rebel literarymagazine, will not return to his position at ECU, but will receive six monthsof his salary and health insurance costs. As of Friday, he is listed as havingresigned so that a termination will not appear in his employment history.

“I’mglad we were able to come to some sort of settlement and move forward,” Isomsaid.

ECUspokeswoman Mary Schulken said the university pursued a termination because of a“difference in philosophy,” not because of the streaker photograph. Shedeclined to explain the philosophical differences, referring the question toIsom.

Whencontacted, Isom said he felt uncomfortable answering the question due to theterms of the settlement, instead referring the question to his lawyer, JohnHoomani, who then referred the question back to the university.

Accordingto the agreement, parties of the settlement were advised to respond to mediainquiries “by stating that the matter has been amicably resolved on termsagreeable to both sides.”

Schulkensaid Isom’s replacement, who has not yet been selected, will take student mediain a “new direction.” She explained the university intended to hire someone todirectly and solely advise the EastCarolinian so as to give it more attention, and the new adviser will berequired to focus more on Web journalism.

Isomsaid he was already focusing heavily on Web initiatives, explaining thatstudent media was behind the times when he first arrived in 2008. He saidstudent media’s social media presence soared while he was director.

Isomdeclined to comment whether he thought the university was reacting directly tothe streaker photo, though he said he believed he was fired for that reason inan earlier interview with the Student Press Law Center.

The East Carolinian published the photo Nov.8 after a man streaked onto the football field during a home game. The decisionto publish, which was made solely by the editorial staff, was met with outcryfrom university administrators.

Isomwas terminated Jan. 4, and the university appointed Frank Barrows, anexperienced newspaper editor, as interim student media director in lateJanuary.

Whenasked if Isom had performed unsatisfactorily prior to the photo’s publication,Schulken said, “This was about a difference in philosophy and a difference inour expectations.”