Faculty Members’ Perspectives

Adviser Responses

We randomly selected 26 advisers and media relations or marketing personnel at the same CCCU colleges and universities where we had initially reached out to survey students. Because we wrote extensively about our own experiences, we also intentionally contacted three Taylor University faculty members who have been or are involved with the student press, seeking their comments. As of May 1, none of the Taylor-associated contacts responded.

All contacts were emailed a list of questions and an invitation to share their thoughts and experiences as faculty and administration.

If you are a faculty member or student newspaper adviser and you’d like to have your response published, please contact us.

These are the responses we received via email:

Scott Winter, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota

Q: What does your role as an advisor to the student newspaper look like?
A: I hire the editor with a team of professors and current editors. I advise them through all process and content questions but they make all process, editorial and budget decisions. I don’t assign stories or censor them, but I give direct advice about ethical issues. I do not prior review stories unless journalists/editors ask me to do so. When I do, I make suggestions that they can take or leave.

Q: What methods do you use to train your student journalists?
A: Some of them have been trained in journalism classes. We have a journalism major in our English Department. More than half of the staff members have a journalism major or minor. We also have many communication studies students, too. Editors lead training at the beginning of the school year and we take editors and other journalists to conferences at various times of the year, including ACP, CMA and others. Otherwise, editors (often with professional internship backgrounds) train their staffs.

Q: Have you ever guided or directed a student to pursue or not pursue a certain story? Why? And what did that process look like?
A: The paper covers tough news stories (professor/coach firings, racial incidents, etc.), tough issue stories and direct or personal opinion pieces. I always weigh in on their editorial board discussions to talk ethical issues. I tell them what I would do if I were in their position. But they decide based on whether they can justify publishing/not publishing legally and ethically, and if they have solid journalistic reasons for the decision that they can defend post-publication. I’ve advised to publish or not publish, and they have agreed and disagreed both ways, which is the way it should work on a student publication. That’s how we all learn together to do better, to be more accountable, more independent, to seek truth, to minimize harm (SPJ code of ethics).

Q: Have you ever had students complain that they felt censored by you or another university employee? How did you handle it — or how would you handle that if you haven’t experienced it?
A: For the most part, the students ultimately will censor themselves before they are censored by others. In fact, they have started to develop a reputation for writing stories whether officials wanted to be interviewed or not, and that has paid off in people understanding that they may as well talk to journalists to get their side told. All that said, editors have been open to meeting with critics or sources concerned about the ramifications of publishing truth to make sure they’re making informed decisions.

Q: How does journalism training at your Christian college or university differ from that at a secular institution?
A: We consider faith questions more often when choosing stories/angles, asking questions and considering our community and its standards/readiness for material. For example, before a controversial story about the experiences of gay students on our campus, journalists prayed for the sources in the story to be accepted with open minds and for the readers to have open minds before judging the sources or the story. That [didn’t] happen in the state school where I last taught.

Q: Have you ever suggested or required that a student think about the ethical or moral implications of an article they wanted to pursue or were in the process of writing?
A: All the time. Every issue. If they’re doing journalism right, we need to have these conversations.

Q: Any other comments you’d like to add?
A: It’s important to establish relationships with advisers and administrators to help them understand what a student publication does, and its purpose. To that end, the editor has invited the president to speak to students about his take on the publication and the major issues facing the university. She’s invited critics in the administration and PR/communications department to budget meetings to understand the process. It’s best to not just meet with the higher ups when they’re angry about content. Form relationships, but hold true to seeking truth.


Max Belz, Director of Experiential Learning at Providence Christian College, Pasadena, California

Q: What does your role as an advisor to the student newspaper look like?
A: I help the students plan: story ideas, printing schedule, recruiting writers. If something is controversial or sensitive, then I’ll advise the students on how to approach a topic.

Q: What methods do you use to train your student journalists?
A: I encourage them to take communications courses, as well as consider a special semester-long journalism intensive at the King’s College in NYC. I also encourage them to read periodicals, and draw on my own experience in being a student journalist.

Q: Have you ever guided or directed a student to pursue or not pursue a certain story? Why? And what did that process look like?
A: Not really. I try to stay hands off because I believe strongly that the student voice should not be directed by me. I have suggested ideas and if a particularly sensitive story came about, I would help the students frame the story correctly. Part of the issue at a Christian school is to be critical, but also give respect to writing constructive stories.

Q: Have you ever had students complain that they felt censored by you or another university employee? How did you handle it — or how would you handle that if you haven’t experienced it?
A: Yes, after a particularly damning piece, one of our writers was stopped in the hallway by a school administrator who was unhappy with what the student had written. The students, as a group, felt pressure about their own standing as students as a result of the critical piece.

Q: How does journalism training at your Christian college or university differ from that at a secular institution)?
A: Since we don’t have a formal academic program (for journalism), it’s tough to answer. However, I would say one thing that does distinguish us is that we have distinct commitments as a Christian community to tell the truth in journalism, but also to do so in a charitable, gracious way.

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