As QPAC’s newspaper struggles, online independent gains steam

HAMDEN — Nearly two years after student editors at the Quinnipiac Chronicle began a battle with the university’s administration to publish breaking news online, the paper finally has the right to do just that. But they gave up something in return: any chance at independence.

And after tensions between the editors and administrators came to a head, a mass exodus of Chronicle editors in May resulted in the creation of a online newspaper, the Quad News — a move which has overhauled the university’s media offerings.

The developments mark a major deviation from the administration’s original promise to ensure the editorial and financial independence of the newspaper.

Instead, while the Quad News is starting to thrive, the Chronicle may now be in shambles.

The newspaper, which will publish its first paper on Sept. 17, is now permitted to publish breaking news, but the administration’s concession may have been too little too late. Students say the search for new Chronicle leaders was difficult because very few students seemed interested in working for the paper. And though the administration has managed to choose three students — Stacey Kinnier as editor in chief, Vanessa Salgado as head illustrator and Griffin McGrath as publisher — to lead the paper, most of the other editorial spots remain vacant. The editor in chief position, for example, was up for grabs by the entire student body, according to e-mails obtained by the News over the year, but Kinnier, who was finally chosen, had only written one article for the paper, according to a name search on its Web site.

In addition to selecting the editorial staff, the administration also appointed Michael Riecke, a former broadcast journalist and Web producer, to head the editorial content of the Chronicle, the yearbook, the student radio station and other media organizations while also serving as a student-media adviser.

Despite all of this, though, the editorial structure of the new Quinnipiac Chronicle has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, the Quad News — which editor Jason Braff wrote in an editorial aims to promote “the free flow of information on campus” — has already started publishing articles and blogs online, including stories on a minority mentoring program, school construction and the movie “The Dark Knight.” Student editors have been selected, including a marketing and advertising manager, and editors say they plan to raise funds in advertising and donations to pay for the site. Fundraising, though, will be difficult, some editors say, because money can only be raised in small increments.

The conflict between the school’s administration and the Chronicle began when the newspaper published an article about two student arrests. The Connecticut Post soon contacted Quinnipiac President John L. Lahey, who was unaware of the arrest at the time.

Almost immediately after, school officials created a Web publications policy, banning online editorial content that did not appear in print. The school administration ignored the fact that the article had been distributed on print that day.

Lahey eventually repealed the policy, but he also called for administrators to choose next year’s editor in chief. This caused the Chronicle editors to withdraw their applications to work the following year.

Throughout the conflict, experts such as journalism professors and school officials have said the administration was within its power to exert more control over the media for the school had financially supported the news ventures. But many expressed disagreement with the backing away from editorial independence that the school had promised.

Quinnipiac Vice President for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell has stressed in interviews that the Chronicle would continue to run, even after many of the former editors decided not to reapply for the fall 2008 editorial board.

Contact Victor Zapana at victor.zapana@yale.edu 

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