The News-Star in Monroe, Louisiana reports that administrators at Grambling State University have shut down production of the school’s student newspaper, The Gramblinite, until the administration can guarantee greater “quality assurance” of the paper.
University Provost Robert Dixon sent a memorandum to the newspaper staff informing them that the newspaper was “suspended for the remainder of the month of January.” Dixon later told student editor Darryl Smith that the paper was not suspended per se, but was also not allowed to publish any more issues until university officials could better control the paper’s quality.
Smith said the administration has been critical of the paper’s accuracy in the past, and The Gramblinite staff also recently dealt with an incident where a student journalist plagiarized a large portion of a news story from The News-Star.
While those involved in student journalism should always endeavor to produce the best possible product, it is vital to remember that journalism at the college student level—whether curricular or extracurricular—is a learning experience. By participating in training at a university newspaper, students are learning the process of bringing the news to their communities.
It would behoove Grambling’s administration to take a glance at the 2001 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case of Kincaid v. Gibson, in which the court prohibited Kentucky State University administrators from confiscating copies of the student yearbook due to “poor quality” and an “inappropriate” theme. As in Kincaid, schools often use the quality excuse as a reason to control student media, but a truly poor paper will suffer natural consequences for a less than stellar performance, such as decreased readership and advertising. Tactics like pulling the plug or prior review should not be an administration’s answer if it dislikes what it reads on its pages, even if the goal is “quality assurance.”