The Maricopa Community College District Governing Board seems to have backed down on plans to research how to take control of student newspapers. The board, which oversees the county's popular community colleges, makes no mention of the newspaper issue on the agenda for this evening's meeting.
Julie Knapp, director of the journalism department at Scottsdale Community College, says in an e-mail to New Times (see below) that the flap, which began after the college's student newspaper published a controversial Obama cartoon, has come to a peaceful end. By the governing board's silence, "they are honoring the rights of the students to a free press unrestricted by government bodies."
Darn. We were sort of hoping for an inquisition of student journalists led by governing board member Debra Pearson, just for the theatrics.
The debate was heating up, with Pearson and another governing board member, Randolph Lumm, commenting on our site. The Scottsdale college's newspaper, the Chronicle, covered the issue of government control of student publications in an article last week, featuring another gem of a quote from Pearson:
For this subject to still be so emotionally alive causes me concern and questions as to the maturity, integrity, professional ability, conduct, and motive of anyone stirring the students up and causing them unnecessary fear and concern.
The article also quoted Joe Russomanno, an Arizona State University associate professor of journalism law:
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Freedom of the press means freedom from government control. Decisions about what to publish in a newspaper, including college newspapers, should be only in the hands of those who operate the papers.
Text of Knapp's statement follows:
We are glad that this came to a peaceful end. It was a learning experience for all because our newspaper editors and journalism students districtwide learned firsthand about both their rights and responsibilities, and our community learned more about how campus newspapers operate. It shows, also, that our Governing Board was willing to research the situation, and we believe by their silence that they are honoring the rights of the students to a free press unrestricted by government bodies. The Chronicle editors responded so professionally. I couldn't have asked for a more professional, mature group to handle the situation.
The college district certainly has bigger problems to worry about.