When it comes to being editor in chief of a college newspaper, it is certainly true that no one is a saint — and with that in mind, it is also certainly true that no one can play the part of Saint Peter when it comes to choosing the editor in chief.
Recently at the University of Southern California, Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson abused his role as the school’s Media Board Chair to block Zach Fox’s Daily Trojan editor in chief application from ever reaching the pearly gates of the school’s review board. The Media Board — similar to UCSB’s Press Council — consists of students and faculty, as well as administrators, who come together to ensure that the EIC candidate elected by the newspaper’s editorial staff is truly competent and responsible. This board never received the chance to properly review Fox’s application, and as such, we at the Daily Nexus feel it necessary to respond to this issue in order to avoid any similar incidents at UCSB.
Additionally, this conflict — which has garnered much attention from our brethren in the collegiate press — directly affects student journalism and our value of fair practice. Throughout the fall, Fox repeatedly requested to see the Trojan’s budget, but was continually denied access. In his application, Fox – who had already served as EIC this past semester — vowed to increase fiscal transparency and give the newspaper’s managing editor more control over production so that he could improve staff training and website management. According to the Trojan’s EIC election guidelines, a candidate is allowed to propose changes for the improvement of the paper within his application.
However, despite the Trojan staff’s endorsement, Jackson disqualified Fox from Media Board review and claimed that Fox was ineligible because he proposed changes to the EIC position that were not sanctioned and budgeted for by the Media Board. The Daily Nexus finds these excuses entirely unacceptable. How could Fox have created a carefully budgeted plan if the university had continually denied him access to the Trojan’s records? Also, in refusing to present Fox with the Trojan’s financial records, USC employed unfair business practices. While the staff of the Trojan may consist of students, these members are still employed by the university, and as such, USC should allow them to see how their business operates.
Lastly, it seems unfair to disqualify Fox for suggesting change, considering USC guidelines allow for candidates to make proposals within their application. If Fox’s suggestions were truly as terrible as Jackson claims, then he should have had no problem presenting it to the Media Board for its immediate disapproval. The board exists to represent the USC community’s interests, and in refusing to present Fox’s application, Jackson usurped a democratic process. Thus, we at the Daily Nexus hope USC will change its Media Board operations to avoid similar problems in the future. For as this incident has shown, when one member is given too much power, it is fairly easy for the pearly gates of EIC election heaven to disintegrate into a fiery media hell.