Staff opinion: Department compromises student journalism


The reimagination for The News was announced to current adviser Carol Terracina-Hartman on May 2 without consultation from her or any other workers from The News. (Dionte Berry/The News)

Staff Opinion

As the semester ends, the editors at The News learned about new changes to the  student-run newspaper that compromise our policy of having a free campus press without University interference by which The News stands. These changes come after The News received a proposed $23,614 funding cut from the University which would leave The News with no cash reserve. 

Current news adviser Carol Terracina-Hartman will be removed from her position and three journalism and mass communications department faculty members are set to take her place: associate professor of journalism Leigh Wright as faculty adviser and journalism instructor Ed Rode and professor emeritus Bob Valentine as consultants.

The reimagination for The News was orchestrated by Department Chair Kevin Qualls. The current staff at The News was not considered nor asked about this reimagination—as we have been in past years when choosing a new adviser. 

Replacing one adviser with three would let the University control and interfere with The News to an unprecedented extent, violating what we have learned about free press, even from Qualls himself.

This proposed change from Qualls targets the fundamentals of The News by eliminating vital reporting on important issues affecting the campus community. It will make reporting on campus issues a subsection of The News, while student assignments from journalism classes take precedence. 

These changes would not only limit the content The News covers each week but could force students to publish assignments they might not feel comfortable sharing. 

Terracina-Hartman was excluded from the reimagination and only notified on May 2 of the plans that come after her second full year as adviser. 

A board of faculty members and members of The News interviewed her and other candidates for the position in spring 2021. We were able to ask her questions regarding her qualifications and the visions she had for The News.

After the interview, attendees were able to fill out a form regarding their feelings about Terracina-Hartman. 

An adviser before Terracina-Hartman said they went through a similar interview process where they connected with student workers at The News.

The current reimagination negated this entire process.

Although the incoming faculty may mean well, this is more so a hijack than an appropriate transition.

The timing of the announcement was also convenient: it was made at the end of the semester. Four of the seven editorial board members are graduating in less than a week.

This is not how our graduating seniors intended to spend our last week at The News and at the University. We should be celebrating our reporting efforts during the pandemic with short-staffing and the fact our paper survived—when many others did not.

We at The News reached out to Qualls regarding the future of The News, but he refused to comment, saying it was a “personnel matter.” Although this may be true, he fails to recognize this matter concerns a student-facing and student-run organization that is under threat. 

The News is an independent student-run organization, but the department’s most recent actions compromises our independence, turning us into a departmental instrument.

As an integral part of the journalism and mass communications department, The News is a space for students to practice the foundational elements of journalism, but this reimagination hinders the press freedoms of The News and for what the organization stands.

As the current editorial staff at The News, we firmly disagree with the course of conduct Qualls has taken to implement these plans. His methods lack transparency and compromise and instead bulldoze the foundation of The News. 

This is an attack on student journalism—one we want to make apparent to our loyal readers, to current and future staff of The News and to the greater Murray community.