Last Friday, many members of the Knox campus community received a flier in their mailboxes from student groups calling the campus to action and stating demands about handling sexual assault on campus. Connected to the flier was a note that quoted the TKS’s “Thoughts from the Embers” from March 4, 2010, as well as a statement that reads as follows:
“It is in the spirit of public speech and discourse, that Alliance for Peaceful Action and Estudiantes sin Fronteras issued the following Call to Action. We purchased two ad spaces in The Knox Student newspaper in order to exercise our public speech. We checked with Campus Life to make sure this could be done. We spoke to TKS staff and they confirmed that our ad would be printed on TKS for this Thursday. This did not happen, which is further evidence that proper channels have expired their usefulness. For this reason, because we were not allowed to use the non-bias student newspaper as a vehicle to publicize a message to campus, we find ourselves having to send individual messages to each and every student, faculty and staff member.”
While TKS did receive the advertisement last Tuesday from the groups referenced in this letter, a miscommunication as to the appropriate way to submit advertisements to TKS resulted in hurt feelings and incorrect assumptions. In order to place an ad with TKS, a business or group must contact our business manager, Chanda Wade, and fill out the contractual form in order to place the transaction. This must be done a week prior to the publication of the newspaper, as is clearly stated on the publication literature.
In the case of this ad, it was e-mailed to the editor-in-chief and business manager last Tuesday, which meant it would be printed this week (as it is). However, due to a lack of availability of the ad literature and a verbal misunderstanding, the groups expected their ad to run last week.
Whereas in their note, these groups state that they confirmed with a TKS staff member that their ad would be printed last week, the only person who is allowed to make that decision is the editor-in-chief. She did not at any time make this promise.
In order to prevent further misunderstandings between TKS and groups wishing to advertise with the student newspaper, the advertising timeline, prices and regulations will be posted as a link on the TKS web site, www.theknoxstudent.com. Additionally, the print edition will include Chanda’s contact information in every issue.
While the staff members of TKS understand this type of miscommunication, we do not appreciate this letter circulated to the entire campus insinuating that TKS lied to student groups and chose not to run an ad. The editor-in-chief did not look at the content of the ad before the newspaper was printed. Therefore, it was not left out of the newspaper based on content.
We would now like to discuss our views on the function of a newspaper, specifically a student newspaper, as this letter brings to light several basic assumptions about TKS. First, it states that the ad was purchased “in order to exercise our public speech.” While TKS supports public speech, the newspaper is bound by the same specific legal rules as any other newspaper: we cannot print libelous statements. The student newspaper is printed as a source for reporting news about campus as objectively as possible. When we run stories, we try to interview parties on both sides of a controversy, not just one. We cannot print unfounded accusations without facing legal ramifications.
Secondly, the statement circulated by this group reads, “We were not allowed to use the non-bias student newspaper as a vehicle to publicize a message to campus.” This is untrue, as the group was allowed to print their advertisement with TKS under our rules and timeline. We encourage all groups and individuals who are interested in making their voices heard to write a letter to the editor or place an ad in TKS.
Naturally, if these pieces are submitted late or include a possibly libelous statement, TKS has the right and responsibility not to print them.
The ad in question has been published in this week’s print edition of the newspaper with the modifications specified under the guidelines for print journalism. We hope this clears up any fears or assumptions students might have about censorship of student voices in TKS or that “proper channels [for circulating discussion] have expired their usefulness.”
In the future, TKS recommends that when a conflict between groups occurs, the members try to work out their differences privately before making public statements. In the age of text messages, e-mails and further digital media, miscommunication is easy. Settling a conflict is hard, but important in maintaining a healthy environment in our community.