The student newspaper at Washington State University published a mostly blank issue Friday to highlight alleged censorship by a university staff member.
“This is an issue of protest,” said a front page letter to readers.
The letter from The Daily Evergreen’s editorial board said that General Manager Bob Hilliard was unfairly interfering with the students’ editorial autonomy. The pages, plain white except for ads, represented a one-day strike by the news staff.
“Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to Bob,” said Evergreen editor-in-chief Isamu Jordan. “If he keeps running over students, he won’t have any students working at the paper.”
As general manager of WSU’s student publications department, Hilliard supervises the support staff and oversees the production and finances of the 14,000-circulation daily newspaper and the student yearbook.
Calls to Hilliard’s office and home Friday weren’t returned. No one was at his home Friday evening.
Some university workers were angered by the students’ move.
“It’s very disappointing from a staff point of view, certainly,” said Vicki Rishling, production manager for student publications. “I think it’s immature and it’s amateur.”
Specifically, the students said last summer Hilliard killed a column critical of residence halls, despite the protests of the paper’s editor.
This week, the news staff said, Hilliard wanted to delay a story on two candidates for the job of university provost - including his boss, interim provost Geoffrey Gamble.
“That marriage to the administration makes him a tainted gatekeeper,” said Jordan. “As soon as the staff and faculty gets involved, it gets tainted with a lot of politics that shouldn’t be in the newspaper.”
The paper’s editors ran the story.
The next day, according to the news staff, Hilliard “said that if the situation arose again, he would walk into the newsroom and make the changes he saw fit.”
Gamble said Friday night that he will meet with the students and Hilliard to try and work things out.
“Do we impose censorship? The answer is no,” Gamble said.
The paper repeatedly tried to work out the conflicts, Jordan said.
“We tried time and time again, and he’s just waved us off,” Jordan said. “I feel this (protest edition) is the only way we can get him to hear us, instead of giving us lip service.”
The newspaper will come out as usual on Monday, Jordan said.
Hilliard, a WSU associate professor of journalism, was named general manager of student publications in March. He is paid $65,000 a year.
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