As of 6 a.m. March 4, the editorial staff of the Oregon Daily Emerald, University of Oregon’s student-run newspaper, went on strike.
According to a statement on the ODE Web site, the “newsroom staff will not produce another paper until the Emerald Board of Directors meets four demands to preserve student control and editorial independence, future of organization.
1. Immediately rescind the offer to Steven A. Smith to serve as interim publisher April 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010.
2. Conduct a nationwide search for a publisher, as originally voted at the Feb. 10 board meeting.
3. Stipulate in the chosen publisher’s contract that he or she shall not be employed in any capacity by the University, including at the School of Journalism and Communication.
4. Stipulate in the chosen publisher’s contract that he or she shall not have immediate supervisory control over the editor; rather, the publisher and student editor shall remain equals in the organization, as the general manager and student editor currently are.”
The ODE staff made this move in response to the Emerald’s Board of Directors’ actions.
In February, the board conducted a nationwide search to find a publisher for the Emerald. Smith, a U of O alumnus and former editor in chief of The Spokesman Review, offered to serve as interim publisher while the search was underway. However, among the job responsibilities outlined and the salary proposed, the Emerald staff discovered some logistical problems.
“The editors felt that the Emerald cannot afford the salary that Smith proposed and were extremely concerned that allowing Smith to work as an adjunct instructor at the journalism school while serving as publisher was an obvious conflict of interest, for multiple reasons. If Smith worked for the journalism school and the newsroom worked for Smith, he would have the potential power to censor the paper if we wrote something critical about the University. Because the Emerald is independent from the University, we are able to report freely and objectively on the institution,” the ODE statement read.
Despite these and other concerns expressed at board meetings, the board approved the job offer and Smith accepted the decision.
As of March 5, Smith withdrew from the job offer to let ODE staff and the board negotiate. In addition, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon issued a statement supporting the demands of the ODE staff.
The Review supports the mission of the Emerald editorial staff, which is why it was troubling to read the comments made by readers of the online version of The Oregonian article outlining the plight of the Oregon Daily Emerald.
Comments made included phrases such as, “So these kids believe they should not have a boss,” and “The state should cut the funding to the ungrateful cub reporters.”
These comments were obviously stated in ignorance. The staff of the ODE does work hard, putting out five newspapers a week and breaking important stories.
It is not a “boss” the staff doesn’t want, but a non-biased publisher. And these “cub reporters” are intelligent, experienced reporters who will soon be on staffs at professional newspapers nationwide. The paper is also not funded by the state.
The Oregon Daily Emerald constantly wins numerous awards, such as first place in general excellence in the 2008 Collegiate Newspaper Contest by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
The importance of uncensored student media is crucial to freedom. The Review hopes the ODE’s current predicament will stand as an example of this and that the staff’s demands are soon met.