No access to varsity sports for Quad News

HAMDEN – In the latest twist in the ongoing battle between Quinnipiac University administrators and student journalists, university officials have restricted the editorial content of an independent online student newspaper by denying reporters access to all varsity coaches, staff and athletes, the News learned Wednesday.

In an e-mail provided to the News by a Quad News editor, Quinnipiac Director of Athletic Communications Chuck Menke wrote to the newspaper’s staff last week that the school, “won’t be able to make any student-athletes, coaches or staff available for interviews” with the online paper’s sports staff. The editor, who asked to remain anonymous, said the administration later offered to meet with members of the paper’s sports desk in regards to the e-mail.

Even as they make a decision that journalism experts said would effectively cripple the Quad News’ abiilty to report on the university’s athletic programs, the administration continues to remain hushed about the saga, which began when tightening control of the university’s main student paper, the Quinnipiac Chronicle, led to an exodus of editors and the creation of the Quad News.

The university’s President John Lahey and Vice President of Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Associate Vice President of Public Relations John Morgan, reached via e-mail, declined to comment about the athletics restrictions against the Quad.

Four Quad News editors interviewed also declined to comment on the incidents that have unfolded the past several weeks, saying it is too early to assess how the situation will turn out, although one did say that he hopes that a sit-down between the Quad News’ sports staff and the administration takes place soon.

These discussions may, in fact, eventually take place at an even higher level within the university.

When asked Wednesday afternoon, Paula Miller, a member of the university’s Board of Governors, Quinnipiac’s highest governing body, said she suspects the Board will discuss the battle that has played out between the student journalists and the administration for almost a year.

“I’m sure it’ll be brought to the Board of Governors meeting,” she said in an interview.

The university’s response to student journalism, though, is not entirely out of the ordinary. Griffin McGrath, the student who was handpicked to take over the Chronicle’s editorial content and finances after former editor in chief Jason Braff left to form the Quad News, once wrote in an e-mail to this reporter, “In order to perform an interview, you must first contact Quinnipiac’s media relation’s department as it is the only area authorized to speak on behalf of the University.”

When this reporter received permission from Bushnell to contact McGrath about the Chronicle, McGrath responded in an e-mail that he will not “be available” for phone interviews. But he did said that he will look forward to making the Chronicle a “more successful student newspaper.”

Since that e-mail exchange, members of the Chronicle, including McGrath, have not responded to phone and e-mail messages requesting comment.

For many universities across the country, it is quite common to find a public relations strategy in which administrators must get permission from the department before speaking to any media.

“It would certainly make you worry of a culture of intimidation that keeps the employees of the student newspaper from feeling they can speak freely,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the student Press Law Center.

Several Quinnipiac journalism professors interviewed Wednesday said they are not surprised by McGrath’s e-mails, especially because the of the administration’s past track record with Chronicle editors.

About a year and a half ago, current Quad News editor in chief Jason Braff was a paid editor in chief of the Chronicle. After complaining about the inability to publish breaking news online, administrators threatened to remove him from his position if he were to continue speaking negatively about the school. Soon after, Braff and most of his co-editors left the Chronicle.

Comments

  • Disgruntled QU Student

    The whole thing is a joke. For a school that touts their journalism program, this situation is simply unacceptable. The school has put a BUSINESS student in charge of the Chronicle. Just simply pathetic. Hopefully the administration opens their eyes and realizes this hurts the school's journalism program. They've dealt with this like children.

  • Christian

    As QU Alumni, I cringed for four years anytime I heard that Yale wrote another story about us, but this is one time that I would love to see some more Yale coverage of the garbage that goes on 10 minutes to the north. We need the outside world to realize what the QU administration does to keep its facade of perfection.

  • Mike

    So, how would it be any different if any normal citizen were to go up to players/coaches after the game and talk to them, then post quotes and a story on their own personal blog? The only reason it is an issue is because the people writing the stories are the ones who "walked out" on good ol' QU. This is simple an atrocity and a violation of constitutional rights. It is unfathomable that these administrators can even do something like this in the first place; this issue should be taken to a higher authority, and even to court if the wrongs are not righted. The Quad News is an excellent source for up-to-date information, as The Chronicle has always been sparse and belated on many time-sensitive issues, if even reporting on them at all, due to their lack of being able to print in a timely fashion. A college newspaper should be almost entirely student-run, with a bit of help from an adviser, just so everything runs smoothly; the adviser and/or any other administrators should have little to no say in what is printed. Positive or negative, news is news, and good journalism is about the truth, not selective news.