Florida A&M Fires Student Newspaper Editor-in-Chief for ‘Publishing Negative Stories’

Be warned: This story is WEIRD– and anger-inducing.  The editor-in-chief of The Famuan at Florida A&M University has just been fired from his position for the SECOND time already this semester.

As SPJ region 3 director Michael Koretzky reports, Famuan EIC Karl Etters received a short, vague email earlier today informing him he has been replaced as the paper’s top ed.

The email was sent by a woman who has not yet been formally named as the new Famuan adviser.  It comes a day after this woman conducted an interview with Etters in which she did not introduce herself or confirm upfront she was the new adviser.  It also comes not long after Etters and the rest of the Famuan staff were abruptly removed from their positions and told they must reapply– without being given instructions on what changes FAMU officials were seeking in their new applications or what they were now looking for in the student candidates vying for the various jobs.

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Etters was initially given no reason for his most recent ouster.  His follow-up with the informal new adviser revealed this nugget: “She explained that I was not the best fit for the job because I didn’t fit into the vision of the Famuan. . . . She said my answer about holding the administration accountable and publishing ‘negative’ stories as she called it– which I did not say in the interview– was not in the vision of the paper.”

To be clear, Etters and other Famuan staffers have not yet been told what the paper’s new vision actually is– although the teaser provided by the new adviser doesn’t sound much like quality journalism.

He tells the Student Press Law Center more about his ‘negative’ interview answer: “I said something along the lines of ‘we publish the truth whether it’s positive or negative, good or bad.  She said that she didn’t like my answer about negative stories. . . . I would never say that’s a goal, writing negative stories. But holding people acccountable doesn’t constitute negative stories.”

SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte: “The very best possible way that you could characterize FAMU’s behavior, giving them the benefit of every doubt, is that they view their students with contempt. That’s the nicest possible thing you could say. People innocent of wrongdoing don’t act this way. They don’t mysteriously suspend newspapers without explanation, don’t mysteriously fire advisers and editors without explanation, and don’t conduct secretive hiring and replacement processes that are intentionally opaque to the candidates.”

My Take: FAMU’s behavior, already bordering in recent weeks on disheartening, has turned stone-cold disgusting.  School officials are literally, LITERALLY, providing a textbook case of how NOT to oversee a student newspaper, teach students about journalism, and uphold basic tenets of free speech and free press.

As the screenshot above shares, Koretzky has placed an image with his story of Who-What-When-Where-How-Why signs pointing every which way.  Those are apt, due to the many mixed signals and smoke and mirrors surrounding this ongoing battle.  But so is one big sign screaming CENSORSHIP, pointing directly at a school in Tallahassee, Fla., that has replaced education with intolerance, advising with mismanagement, and inspiration with suppression.

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Related

‘No Paper, No Problem’: An Interview with Former (& Future) Famuan Editor Karl Etters

My Take: FAMU Campus Paper Shutdown a Big FU to Students & a Downright ‘Noxious Form of Censorship’

Florida A&M Student Newspaper Delayed From Publishing & Staff Ordered to Reapply for Positions

With Their Paper Shut Down, Florida A&M Students Start ‘Rogue Website’: ‘Real Journalism Has No Pause Buttons’

Comments
One Response to “Florida A&M Fires Student Newspaper Editor-in-Chief for ‘Publishing Negative Stories’”
  1. I’ve seen this happen so many times that it’s hard to have sympathy for student newspapers anymore who do not put measures in place to maintain more independence from the universities they cover.