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Claims of Retaliation Follow Firings at 2 Student Newspapers

Firings at two student newspapers in recent days have prompted charges of retaliation for unfavorable coverage.

At Virginia Tech, the nonprofit media company that runs the campus newspaper, the Collegiate Times, fired its student editor as she was working on an article about the company’s finances. The Roanoke Times reports that the Educational Media Company’s governing board voted to fire Erica Corder on March 25. A student member of the subcommittee that recommended firing the editor told The Times that members discussed the story Ms. Corder was working on, and worried it would be damaging to the company.

It is against the company’s policies to remove a leader for editorial content, and without providing prior notice. In a statement Tuesday, the board said it had asked Ms. Corder to respond to allegations of “unprofessionalism, decreased paper quality, failure to communicate and the inability to function effectively as editor in chief of the Collegiate Times.

Meanwhile, at Northern Michigan University, the campus newspaper’s board of directors voted to fire its faculty adviser and deny its top leadership spot to the paper’s managing editor, who was the sole applicant. The Detroit Free Press reports the firing follows a year of contention between the North Wind newspaper and the university’s administration. Most recently, the newspaper published an article critical of travel reimbursement for members of the college’s Board of Trustees.

The Society of Professional Journalists released a statement calling for the reinstatement of Cheryl Reed, who remains a professor at the college. “Colleges and universities that are fortunate enough to have student newspapers should give advisers the freedom to teach students about good, ethical journalism without fear of retribution if something less than positive is published about the institution,” said Dana Neuts, the organization’s national president.

Aubrey Kall, a student and chair of the newspaper’s board, said the administration did not pressure members to fire Ms. Reed. “I can unequivocally state that no pressure was applied on or request made to the students of the board to vote for or against any North Wind staff members for next year,” she said. “Each was encouraged to decide for themselves.”

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