10.02.2008

DTH Censorship??

Earlier this week, Daily Tar Heel Op-Ed columnist Danny Randolph quit the campus paper because he felt like he was being censored. From an e-mail that he sent around:
This past weekend, I submitted a column for publication that included
indirect criticism of the Daily Tar Heel.... Essentially, the column warns against the UNC "bubble" mentality. In making my arguments, I rely partly on the kinds of
stories the DTH chose to cover last week during some of the most intense moments of the financial crisis.
[...]
Allison Nichols, the Editor-in-Chief, explained to me in an email that she was "uncomfortable" with what I was "implying" about the DTH. She thought I would "confuse" readers about the purpose of the DTH, a local paper.
Long story short, Allison Nichols ended up not running this story. Randolph believes that he was being censored because he spoke ill of the DTH.

At first I assumed that Randolph had written some off-the-wall column that didn't make any sense and unfairly blasted the newspaper. But after reading the article I thought it was fair. It talks about how as college students we have a tendency to be trapped in the college bubble and ignore what is going on in the outside world and this is shown by what the DTH chooses to cover and not to cover.

It's a relevant article and a valid opinion about how the paper should run. Yet Nichols felt that it wasn't worthy enough to be published. A columnist is given the power to write about what he/she feels is important. They are put on the opinion page for specifically that reason: what they write is their opinion and does not necessarily represent the ideas of the paper. As long as it is not false, misleading or terribly offensive, columnists should be able to publish whatever they want. Anyone remember Jillian Bandes? Sure, she was eventually fired, but at least she was not censored. She was allowed to say what she wanted and was fired when it came out that she took quotes out of context.

As a response, DTH Public Editor Eric Johnson (yes, the same Eric that gave the DTH a big pat on the back a couple of weeks ago) wrote an article Wednesday called "Editor is more hands-on: Critics say expanded role shuts out dissenting voices." Hands-on. That's one way to put it.

He spends the first 90% of his article saying how she is just more hands on and is trying to bring higher journalistic standards to the opinion page by not running things that are controversial. She nearly killed a negative editorial about the move by News & Observer to bundle "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," a controversial movie about Radical Islam with the paper. This caused Opinion Editor Aisha Saad and Associate Opinion Editor David Giancaspro to also quit the paper.

That is not being hands-on, this is trying to stifle dissenting voices. Sure, an editor for straight news gets to choose what stories should be reported and run based on space and newsworthiness, but it works a little differently on the Op-Ed page. An editor doesn't get to choose what gets to be run based on how controversial it is. What happened to journalists being watchdogs?

At the end of Johnson's article, he says:
Personally, I think Nichols should have run the column Randolph preferred and that a fully independent editorial board is preferable to one managed by the editor.

Nichols respectfully disagrees, but she still printed this column.

Sure she did. You kissed her ass for the last 400 words.

1 comment:

Chris Monaghan said...

I received an email from Randolph, someone I immensely respect, and similarly went to read his column. Today I read Eric Johnson's article, and I hope it serves as a reason that he doesn't get a decent job (unfortunately, DTH archives its articles like Dick Cheney keeps his records). That might have been the worst, self-fulfilling argument I've heard.