Butler University has reversed its decision to replace the student newspaper advisor with the university’s spokesman. Nancy Whitmore, director of the Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism, will serve as interim advisor while a permanent replacement is found.
Gary Edgerton, dean of the College of Communication, told the Indianapolis Business Journal the school made the change because the controversy was distracting the students. Maybe it was a distraction, but one can only hope it was also a teachable moment about conflict of interest for students and administrators alike.
The newspaper (or the university; who actually makes the decision?) hoped to have a new adviser in place within a month. Things rarely move that quickly in academia — they certainly didn’t at Butler during my time there — but we shall see.
Still lurking is the question of why the previous adviser, Loni McKown, was removed from that position and whether the reason had anything to do with content control. So, as always with student journalism, that bears watching.
I surprised myself a little bit by caring so much about this move on Butler’s part. I’m much more attached to my graduate school (Louisville Seminary), and my college years were not the happiest. Still, they played an important part in getting me to where I am now, and I am grateful for that. Also, Butler is very much part of Indianapolis, and Indy will always be home.
Maybe it was because I just completed a project full of advertorials, which are all about content control — but they are clearly labeled as marketing products. It makes a big difference when everyone’s cards are on the table.
Journalism will live to fight another day.