East Carolina, Former Student Media Director Reach Settlement: Firing Due to ‘Difference in Philosophy’

The former student media director at East Carolina University is no longer attempting through legal channels to regain his position, more than three months after a termination that involved discussions of a streaker and free speech.

In January, prior to the start of spring semester, ECU officials fired Paul Isom without warning or much explanation.  The sudden dismissal prompted speculation among many in collegemediatopia that it was related to the The East Carolinian’s infamous ‘streaker’ photo published the previous November on its front page.  A barrage of public criticism from journalism and First Amendment advocacy organizations quickly followed.

For example, in a public letter sent to ECU’s chancellor and its board of trustees chairman, Student Press Law Center executive director Frank LoMonte noted SPLC’s deep concern with what it considered a “personnel decision . . . [that] carries profound implications for the overall climate for free expression on campus, and in particular for the willingness of student journalists to publish material that provokes strong public reaction, as journalists must.”

A joint statement released Friday by Isom and ECU declared the speculation and concerns invalid, stating that “Isom’s separation from his role was because of a difference in philosophy, not for cause. . . . While the timing [in respect to the streaker photo saga] drew some criticism from First Amendment advocates, Isom has acknowledged that it resulted from a difference in his professional philosophy and the expectations of the university.”

In case that wasn’t clear, the phrase ‘difference in philosophy’ pops up in the statement one more time, in a quote from an ECU administrator: “This separation reflected a difference in philosophy and a desire to take student journalism at the East Carolinian in a new direction.”  The headline of the statement: “Difference in Philosophy.

As part of the settlement, Isom is getting six months’ back-pay, totaling more than $30,000.


East Carolina Hires Interim Adviser to Lead Campus Newspaper Weeks After Student Media Director’s Firing

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East Carolina Fired Director-Streaker Saga Update: A School Statement and a CMA Inquiry

East Carolina Journalism Faculty, FIRE, SPLC Rally Around Ousted Student Media Director

Former East Carolina Student Media Director Considers Lawsuit, Other Options to Contest Firing

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