Former Famuan editors start “underground” online publication, Ink and Fangs

This weekend, former editors of The Famuan at Florida A&M University launched an underground website, inkandfangs.comto distribute news during a suspension of the paper’s publishing by the journalism school’s dean.

Karl Etters, who had been serving as editor-in-chief of The Famuan before being told last week that he would have to reapply for his job, said the staff of about 10 made the decision to create the site because they feel it’s important to continue covering the campus.

The Famuan’s first issue of the semester was to have been published today, but staff learned last week that journalism dean Ann Kimbrough was suspending publication until staff completed training. This decision came in light of a libel lawsuit filed against the paper and the school in December.

In addition to the publication delay and required training, the paper’s adviser was removed from his position and the staff told they needed to reapply. Kimbrough told SPLC last week that the adviser’s removal was just “coincidental” and not related to the libel lawsuit or the decision to require staff to complete training.

Applications are due today for editors who wish to reapply for their positions. Etters said he knows at least four students do not plan to reapply and that many, himself included, are worried about whether they will be rehired.

“It feels to me that there’s potential that I may not get the job again even if I do apply,” Etters said, adding that he still plans to try.

The head of the journalism division will be selecting the new editors, Kimbrough said in an email last week.

Even if they are rehired, the student editors are also concerned about what will happen after the paper is allowed to publish again, Etters said.

“I don’t know what the mood or tone’s going to be like after this,” Etters said. “If we do something else that someone doesn’t like, is this going to happen again?”

The Famuan editors got the idea for their underground publication in part by from talking with staff of the University of Georgia’s The Red and Black, who staged a walk-out and launched their own underground publication, The Red & Dead, following concerns about student editors’ editorial authority.

Many of the paper’s staff talked with Lindsey Rogers Cook over the weekend, Etters said. Cook ran Red & Dead‘s social media accounts, which amassed more followers than The Red & Black‘s official accounts in a matter of days. Cook is the newly appointed Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 assistant director, which covers Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

Etters said that he was particularly interested in Cook’s advice about using social media to get the word out about Ink and Fangs. He said he was hoping to use the underground publication’s new Twitter account to let the public know what staff would have been doing if administrators were allowing them to publish The Famuan.