In October 2011, the Dean of Arts and Sciences appointed me to Chair of the U-News Board of Publishers. Dean Wayne Vaught is responsible for all appointments to the Board, which includes faculty, students and staff, with representatives from academic units across campus plus Student Affairs and the Dean’s office.
While the Board of Curators, as the legal publisher, has the ultimate responsibility for the content of the University News, the Curators have delegated authority and responsibility to UMKC’s Chancellor and the Chancellor has, in turn, delegated to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The budget originates from Student Affairs and the Provost’s office and we operate on the understanding that the Board will work with the Editor-in-Chief, the advertising manager, and the business manager to maintain the financial health of the newspaper.
The Charter of the U-News Board of Publishers makes clear that, in addition to being responsible for finances, the Board of Publishers is intended to protect the newspaper’s journalistic integrity.
The Editor-in-Chief is responsible for editorial policy and is assisted by the management team and a team of student editors. The faculty adviser, with long experience as a professional journalist, is a constant presence during the production process, providing advice and suggestions as the need arises. But the newspaper is, and will remain, independent, freely expressing the views, interests and concerns of students at UMKC.
As Chair of the Board, I am deeply invested in the inviolable status of the U-News as an independent voice of UMKC students. My job is to guide the Board of Publishers in ways that protect the newspaper’s freedom of expression. I do so by following the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ): “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy” and “the duty of the journalist is to seek truth and provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues… serving the public with thoroughness and honesty.”
The SPJ code of ethics is not enforceable under the First Amendment, but it provides guidance about ways to minimize harm, to ensure that our writers are “free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know,” and to make sure they are, at the same time, “accountable to their readers.”
While I convene regular meetings to discuss matters related to production, finances and journalistic integrity, I am deeply committed to a policy of non-interference; we discuss the SPJ code of ethics regularly, but it is up to the Editor and the team of student journalists to interpret and apply this code as they see fit.
Since I became Chair of the Board of Publishers I have worked hard to make the newspaper more inclusive. I recruited Board members from a range of UMKC programs across the College of Arts and Sciences and the Health and non-Health professional schools.
My hope is that every student on campus, whether associated with Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences, the Conservatory, Computing and Engineering, Dentistry, Education, Law, the Libraries, Management, Medicine, Nursing, or Pharmacy, will feel that the U-News belongs to her or him. My hope, too, is that students who are actively engaged in groups organized around social, political, ethnic and other cultural issues will take ownership of the newspaper in part by contacting the Editor with potential stories, contributing articles for consideration, and getting involved in the work of the newspaper. I also hope they will help us recruit and support advertisers, discuss U-News articles in class, suggest outlets for distribution, and spread the word about your independent newspaper.