Memphis President Orders Investigation Into Helmsman Newspaper Funding Cut

University of Memphis president Shirley Raines has called for an investigation into the sudden, dramatic funding cut to The Daily Helmsman student newspaper.

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.

This outlook has been emboldened by the public and private grumblings of Memphis officials and student government members toward the paper’s recent reporting– including stories rightfully attacking the admins. and SG– and a perceived lack of coverage that “promotes student activities.”

Now, according to a Student Press Law Center report, Raines has requested an internal review of the matter.  In her words, “Even though it is my understanding that the committee’s initial decision to cut the Helmsman’s funding was not based on the content of the newspaper, I want to be sure that this is the case.”

The Commercial Appeal also weighed in with an editorial headlined “Stifling the Press?“:

“An independent press is essential, even on a college campus.  College newspapers like the Daily Helmsman at the University of Memphis provide a valuable resource for reporting happenings on university campuses– the good and the bad; the controversial and the benign. . . . Besides being an objective news voice about campus issues and events, the Helmsman serves as a real-life training ground for journalism students. The Student Government Association and the allocation committee apparently would like to see the Daily Helmsman become more of a fluff sheet.  But responsible, independent journalism in cities and on university campuses is about reporting on a wide range of issues, and not just being a bugle call for organizations that think coverage of their events should be a priority.”

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