The College Media Association is deeply concerned about the removal of Cheryl Reed, the adviser for The North Wind, the independent student newspaper at North Michigan University. It joins the Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center in the belief that her removal constitutes a violation of the principles of the First Amendment.
While Reed is not a member of CMA, the association strongly believes in freedom of the press and encourages The North Wind board of directors to uphold the First Amendment by reappointing Reed and reconsidering the application of current managing editor Michael Williams for editor-in-chief.
According to reporting by The North Wind, Detroit Free Press and Chronicle of Higher Education it appears Reed was terminated because the student newspaper had been aggressively questioning the administration and financial decisions. Williams, the only applicant for editor-in-chief, was denied that position at the same meeting that resulted in Reed’s removal.
"I definitely think it's another form of retaliation for the stories we've been doing this year and the questioning of the administration," outgoing editor-in-chief Emma Finkbeiner told the Detroit Free Press. "They are trying to take control of the content of the paper. They want us to write what they want — less questioning. This is a massive blow to our First Amendment rights. “
Reed, in an interview with The North Wind, agreed.
“I can’t discuss the specifics of what was said during that executive session,” Reed said, “but it has been clear from the tenor of open meeting discussions that the board has not liked the direction of the newspaper, nor have they liked that I have defended the First Amendment rights and press freedoms of the student journalists at The North Wind. I see this as a direct retaliation for that defense. Their ousting of me and their denial of Michael Williams, the most qualified student for the editor position, are both a direct attempt on their part to control the newspaper and what it covers. That is a form of censorship and a violation of the student journalists’ First Amendment rights.”
The CMA Code of Ethical Behavior states, “Student media must be free from all forms of external interference designed to regulate its content, including … arbitrary removal of staff members or faculty; or threats to the existence of student publications or broadcast outlets.”
“Colleges and universities need to foster an open environment where student media outlets are free from interference, even from publication boards,” said CMA President Rachele Kanigel. “There are many ways to bully student media and removing an adviser is simply that: bullying.”
CMA’s Code of Ethical Behavior says that freedom of expression and debate by means of a free and vigorous student media are “essential to the effectiveness of an educational community in a democratic society. This implies the obligation of the student media to provide a forum for the expression of opinion – not only those opinions differing from established university or administrative policy, but those at odds with the media staff beliefs or opinions as well.”
According to news reports, Reed and Williams have retained a pro bono lawyer but need financial help to fight the removal. Details on how to contribute will follow.
The College Media Association represents more than 700 college media advisers, and their students, throughout the country and supports a free and robust student press.
Rachele Kanigel, CMA President, 415 338-3134 (PDT), Kanigel@sfsu.edu