Where are the Newspaper Advisers?

This week saw a couple of high-profile screw ups in the student newspaper world, and both were related to April Fools editions.

Boston University’s The Daily Free Press published a regrettable issue in which Disney characters were involved in various types of sexual assaults or improprieties.

Then we journalism watchers learned that the University of Missouri’s The Maneater published a spoof edition that apparently managed to offend just about everyone who read it.

As a student newspaper adviser, I’m going to cut these students a little bit of slack in this post. That’s not to excuse what they did — these editions are examples of colossally poor judgement. Instead, I’m wondering what role, if any, advisers and journalism professors have had in this.

April Fools editions are a stupid idea. Always. One of the top priorities for student journalists should be building their credibility, not doing anything that brings their credibility into question. Once your credibility is damaged, it is exceedingly difficult to restore it.

I hope they’re being taught that.

I have trouble understanding how these students could even conceive of these editions as good ideas. This kind of no-no never came up in class?

Another question I have is about oversight. Both of these newspapers claim independence from their respective academic programs. The Daily Free Press has a board of directors; I wasn’t able to determine The Maneater‘s advising structure, if any. Even if the academic programs have no official oversight of these papers, faculty are still responsible for educating the students who work for them. Perhaps avoiding this kind of embarrassment was never on these journalism programs’ radar screens.

My philosophy as an adviser is to do just that — advise. It’s not my job to make editorial decisions for students.  There are some First Amendment implications there.

However, that wouldn’t excuse culpability in these cases. It most certainly is an adviser’s job to teach students about journalism’s rights and wrongs and help them avoid train wrecks (i.e. April Fools editions). We should have no hesitation telling them not to publish such nonsense.

I’m sorry that the students of The Daily Free Press and The Maneater either didn’t get that message or chose to ignore it.

One Response to “Where are the Newspaper Advisers?”
  1. Butler Cain says:

    Note from Butler:The following comment came anonymously, but I've redacted the specific names included in it to avoid any potential personal conflicts. The names have been replaced by asterisks. Otherwise, the entire comment is quoted verbatim below."I wasn't able to determine The Maneater's advising structure, if any. That's because there isn't. Hello. I am a staff writer at the Maneater that has seen the fallout first hand and it isn't surprising at all. The Maneater does not have a academic advisor or structure because we are student run. Most of the decision's are made by ***** and ***** who are nice but want to be liked so bad that they go along with any ideas given to them. There has been almost no structure this semester because ***** and ***** agree to everything others say and do; they have no gall whatsoever to stop others from embarrssing themselves or at least course correcting. The workroom is the WORST by far because of the constant talking, game playing and blaring of music, I almost feel like I am at at KU newspaper with that type of stuff going on. Anyway, professionalism is lacking in the offices because many of the the writers and editors, such as myself are under on Where are the Newspaper Advisers?"

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