What the dean means

Breaking news…

The student newspaper at Florida A&M isn’t suspended. The staff is working on its next issue for Jan. 30. And the j-school dean has hired a
new adviser.

These developments are so late-breaking, the editor-in-chief hasn’t heard about them.

Here’s what happened just hours ago…

Assistant regional director Lindsey Cook called FAMU’s j-school dean Ann L. Wead Kimbrough, who has been mostly silent about her decision to shut down the student paper for one month while its staff undergoes training in the wake of a libel lawsuit – filed over an article published in 2011, before any of that staff was running the place.

Meanwhile, staffers aren’t being paid, and Kimbrough says at the end of training, they must reapply for their jobs. Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, calls it “a case of overkill that could not possibly hold up if challenged under the First Amendment.”

Here’s how Cook describes her phone call with Kimbrough this afternoon.

The conversation with Cook

Although she declined to comment because of the lawsuit, she did have one shocking piece of news: The newspaper isn’t suspended.

“It is not suspended, first of all,” she told me. “We have officially been served with papers and I can’t make any more comments until I speak with legal counsel. But, it’s not suspended. Suspension is different. I know the difference between the two.”

According to Kimbrough, the unsuspended staff is actually working on their Jan. 30 edition of the newspaper this very moment. “They’re working on their first issue,” she insisted. I asked how the staff is faring without an adviser. Kimbrough fired adviser Andrew Skerritt at the same time she suspended (I don’t know what else to call it) the newspaper.

“We have an adviser in place,” she told me. “We have a person who has accepted the position, and we are working on the details.”

But she wouldn’t tell me who it is.

I called Karl Etters, the EIC – or ex-EIC, I’m unsure at this point – to ask him about the good news. But it was news to him. The only publication he’s working on is Ink and Fangs, the unofficial website he and his staff created after their newspaper was, uh, suspended. He also said he hasn’t heard anything about a new adviser.

“Should I go up there right now and talk to her?” he asked me. “I was up in the Division Director Office to find out when the [newspaper staff] interviews would be, and she said they were still looking for an adviser, so she didn’t know. That was about two hours ago.”

According to Etters, Kimbrough said the staff would have a hand in picking the new adviser. And what about Kimbrough’s claim that his paper isn’t suspended?

“Our newspaper isn’t suspended at all? That’s an interesting statement.”

It continues to be an interesting story.


Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.


Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ