So after being suspended for about a day, now The Gramblinite-the student newspaper at Grambling University, pledges to use the Associated Press Stylebook (a journalist's bible) and is committing to reducing errors in content and grammar.
The student newspaper's advisor, Wanda Peters, is now willing to check each story for errors and style. And now, a copy editing course will be offered in the fall and teachers of journalism now pledge to actually teach news writing and AP style in their classes.
Wow. It only took being suspended for them to want to be better.
My only question is this: What in God's name was the university and student newspaper staff doing before this provost-imposed suspension?
When I first heard the news of the paper's suspension I was completely outraged. I was prepared to go to Monroe to fight for first amendment rights. I wanted my co-workers to join me. I wanted the students to be heard. I wanted to fight for our endless cause.
But when I went back and re-read the initial story, I understood why the university's provost took such drastic action. He cites issues of plagiarism and content errors since his 2004 arrival. Plagiarism since 2004? What took him so long to step in and realize the students weren't learning what they needed to in order to produce a paper? Nearly three years is a long time to deal with errors on that level.
I think its safe to say Provost Robert Dixon was embarrassed by the student paper and not because they may publish stories that are critical of the university but because the paper was proof that students weren't learning the proper skills necessary to become good journalists. The paper was a reminder that professors and student editors weren't doing their jobs correctly.
Although I still don't think Dixon should have suspended the paper--even if it was only for a day--he had the best intentions. No paper at a public university (or a private one but they have different rules) should be suspended based on content and no student paper should be forced by the university to allow prior review of its contents. But, the Gramblinite needs to do better.
My co-workers and I are still going to Grambling sometime soon to see what we can do to help.
I hope they get better since they now has an improvement plan in place.
But, dang...what took them so long?