East Carolina hires its second interim adviser to replace fired student media director

NORTH CAROLINA – East Carolina University has hired its second interim adviser and is still searching for a full-time student media director to replace the one it fired in January.

Adviser Paul Isom was fired in January after The East Carolinian published a controversial front page featuring a photograph of a streaker. The university hired veteran North Carolina journalist Frank Barrows as an interim adviser, who left in July after making a series of recommendations.

Seth Effron, the N.C. State Energy Office’s communications director, has been hired to replace Barrows and advise the newspaper part-time through the end of the fall semester. He started Wednesday.

The university first posted an opening for the position in late May but has not filed the position. In addition to advising the newspaper, student media director oversees the school’s yearbook, radio station, literary magazine and multicultural magazine. The position pays between $55,000 and $70,000.

Before working in public relations, Effron spent decades in the newspaper industry, working as a reporter for Knight-Ridder newspapers and serving as executive editor of Nando Media. He was former N.C. Gov. Mike Easley’s deputy press secretary and was a speech writer for current N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue.

Effron said he’s looking forward to his new duties.

“I’m hoping it will go well,” he said. “Looking to work with the folks here to put out the best newspaper they can.”

Barrows left after one semester in order to be closer to Charlotte, his home since the 1960s. Like Effron plans to do, Barrows commuted to Greenville on the newspaper’s production days. Barrows said he enjoyed his time as adviser.

“It was wonderful,” Barrows said. “I advised the students on very journalistic issues on the publication and production of the newspaper. Got to know a lot of them very well.”

When Barrows left, he gave the university a list of recommendations for improving The East Carolinian and helping educate the paper’s student journalists.

In his recommendations, Barrows said the paper’s organizational structure “creates the perception of administrational oversight” which Barrows said is not the case.

“They basically put me in the position and hoped I would lead the students to believe I was a resource for them and that journalistic integrity would prevail,” Barrows said. “I did not make decisions, but they came to trust me and frequently sought my advice.”

Barrows recommended the paper put more emphasis on digital news, focus more on developing student journalists through training programs and establish a more structured relationship “tying” the paper with the university’s School of Communication. Additionally, Barrows recommended university administrators find the paper more visible on-campus newsroom and said the student media board should have members with a background in the news industry.

These recommendations are mostly longer-term goals and objectives, but the university has already looked at some of the issues, said Mary Schulken, the school’s communications director.

“There’s need for a training and development program that is integrated into our student newspaper and delivered, housed and directed by an adviser that brings the grounding to develop it,” Schulken said. “We have new journalists coming in almost every semester. We have to create a development program about fact-gathering, sourcing, what’s appropriate and what’s not.”

A new student center is in the planning stages and will likely house the paper once it is completed, Schulken said.

By Jordan Bradley, SPLC staff writer. Contract Bradley by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 124.