The Daily Campus printed an article this past Tuesday entitled “Bryan College censors student newspaper, no disciplinary action.” I think this is an important story because the college nearly got away with forcing a student to silence the truth.
Alex Green, the editor-in-chief of the Bryan College Triangle, found out through public records that his biblical studies professor was arrested by the FBI in June for trying to meet up with a child at a gas station. He was charged with child molestation and sexual exploitation of a child.
Green wrote the story in September using the records and planned to publish it in the paper. At that point the school stepped in and told Green he was not permitted to print the article.
Green disobeyed the orders, facing the threat of expulsion, and printed the story in a flyer that he circulated. He wrote that his purpose was to ensure that a scandal would not be covered up, as it was at Penn State.
"Bryan College is not Penn State because there are people here that will not attempt to save face by dusting over the arrest of Dr. David Morgan," Green said in a note attached to the story.
I applaud Green’s determination to get the story out. It takes a great deal of courage for one student to stand up to a large entity. The president later issued an apology, which can be read in full in Jim Romenesko's post, and did not expel Green. It still stands that he tried to censor the school newspaper.
Bryan College is a private, Christian college and their newspaper is run through a course for credit. However, I still think it was wrong for the president to cut Green’s story before print. The purpose of a newspaper is to inform and keep an eye on administrations. A newspaper cannot fulfill its duty when the body it should be reporting on can pick and chose what stories are worth telling.
It seems clear that the school did not want the story to run because it would reflect poorly on a former staff member, and therefore on them. This path is a slippery slope for any college to embark on. Green was correct. Covering up secrets can lead to bigger tragedies, like that of Penn State.
College is an opportunity for students to get a true taste of journalism. It is a time for us to learn how to publish articles that educate to the community, whether the news is positive or negative. Forcing a student publication to merely print good news turns it into a public relations tool.
Student journalists also serve an important role of reporting on their college. No other news source would focus their entire enterprise on covering a university. It is the student newspaper’s responsibility.
Student journalists are journalists nonetheless and should not be held to different standards. The Daily Campus is run without a faculty advisor and we do not ask the university for permission to print. If we did it would hurt our credibility. Readers would not know if the stories were developed, or blocked, by the editors or by the administration.
Green had the instinct to print the truth. In my opinion it was the right thing to do for his readers. As an editor-in-chief, I like to believe that I would pursue the truth in the same manner. He stood up for himself, his staff and student journalists everywhere. Universities should celebrate students who are as passionate about reporting the truth as Green.