The $25,000 Question: Was Daily Helmsman Funding Cut at Memphis Due to Content Concerns?

The University of Memphis has slashed funding for The Daily Helmsman by $25,000 for the upcoming academic year, a full third of the usual financial assistance the paper receives from student activities fees.  Some current and former staffers of the campus newspaper view the dramatic cutback as possible retaliation for controversial editorial content.

According to a Commercial Appeal story earlier today, Memphis administrators and members of the student government have publicly and privately expressed their unhappiness at the paper’s recent coverage and a perceived lack of focus on UM.  UM’s dean of students: “I can’t begin to tell you the examples that came up in [a recent meeting with the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee] about things that the paper did print that seem to have very little relevance or that seemed to touch very, very few students on the campus.”

Hmm.  Those concerns seem strange, nay ridonkulously wrong, given the amount of high-profile stories the Helmsman broke and reported upon over the past year alone.  Staffers spotlit serious campus issues involving everything from retention rates, athletics revenue (or lack of it), and potential crime reporting violations to student-athlete misconduct oversights, student ID card theft, and a rape in an on-campus apartment carried out by an individual living there under the guise of being a UM student.  The list goes on…

So, what’s really going on here?  Helmsman general manager Candy Justice says censorship: “It’s a First Amendment violation.  It’s just one more example of what the Helmsman has to put up with.”

The university says editorial concerns were not part of the fee allocation committee’s funding decision, pointing out there was an overall drop in available funding for all campus groups.

Justice told the Commercial Appeal the Helmsman may be forced to cut publishing days or staff pay due to the budget chop.

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  1. […] As I recently posted, a Memphis student fees allocation committee overseen by a small group of administrators and undergraduate leaders slashed Helmsman funding by $25,000 for the upcoming academic year– a full third of the usual fees assistance the paper receives.  Some current and former Helmsman staffers and Memphis alums view the cutback as possible retaliation for its no-holds-barred editorial content. […]