Will Student Press Freedom Survive in Kansas?
December 16, 2005
FIRE has joined an amicus brief supporting freedom of the press at Kansas State University. Advisor Ronald Johnson was removed after administrators determined, in part based on its level of “diversity” coverage, that the award-winning paper had “quality” issues. While the move was widely recognized as a punishment of the newspaper, the court went so far as to determine, incomprehensibly, that the “content analysis” of the paper that led to the removal did not represent an attempt by Kansas State, as a public institution, to influence the content of the paper. FIRE and other organizations are working to ensure that this method of punishing students and influencing news coverage does not become a regular feature on America’s public college campuses.
Johnson and the Collegian have been embroiled in controversy since February, when the newspaper failed to cover the Big 12 Diversity Leadership Conference, a gathering about 1,000 students to the campus in Manhattan.The Black Student Union, a student group at the public university, alleged that the newspaper did not adequately cover minority students’ issues and events. Members of the group led protests against the newspaper and Johnson, calling for his resignation because they believed he was not doing enough to promote diversity coverage by the newspaper.Students also objected to the newspaper’s publication of a headline that they considered racially insensitive and a comment from the call-in line, a system in which anonymous readers call in to voice opinions, that they considered racist.
the total bylined items, the number of news stories, the number of feature stories, the percentage of campus stories, the number of sources per story, the number of sports stories, the number of bylined opinion items, and the number of diversity items in six campus newspapers comparable to the Collegian.