Brad Richardson, editor-in-chief of the Claremont Independent, a Claremont McKenna College student newspaper, wrote last week to urge students to support a partial separation between The Forum, another student publication, and the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC).
Richardson explained why removing The Forum from the direct authority of the ASCMC would be beneficial for the publication and for the Claremont community:
The reform measure consists of two main points: “The [Forum] Editor-in-Chief will no longer be an employee of ASCMC” and “The [Forum] Editor-in-Chief will no longer be chosen by the election committee of ASCMC.”
Under the current system, the Forum editor-in-chief is placed in an untenable position, fraught with potential conflicts of interest. Most acutely, the editor-in-chief is both charged with determining journalistic content directly related to the practices and policies of ASCMC while also being a paid employee of that very organization.
The editor-in-chief is similarly hindered by having access to ASCMC’s closed-minute discussions and confidential email dialogues, which effectively inhibits him or her from coordinating content and prompting investigative journalism related to ASCMC.
Finally, the format for selecting the Forum editor-in-chief, via the ASCMC Elections Committee, allows ASCMC to select a candidate beholden to their will.
Forum editor Ana Kakkar reported that the executive board of ASCMC has approved the amendments to the ASCMC constitution that would make this change, and the ASCMC Senate will vote on the amendments this Monday. Kakkar wrote:
I encourage all of you to recognize the benefits this separation will provide every person on this campus; as the voice of Claremont McKenna College, the Forum hopes to be able to provide honest and complete information on everything that happens on campus. In order to do so, it is important for us to maintain independence from each party we may comment on — ASCMC being one of the primary parties.
FIRE, too, has seen student newspapers limited in their ability to report fully and accurately on important matters because they fell under the jurisdiction of another school entity. For example, in May 2012, funding for the University of Memphis’ student newspaper The Helmsman was drastically cut by the school’s Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee after members of the student government took issue with the content of the newspaper. Thankfully, in that case, funding was restored after FIRE and the Student Press Law Center stepped in.
FIRE commends the staff of the Claremont Independent and The Forum for advocating for the independence of Claremont student publications in order to protect the integrity of student reporting.