Mercury task force wants to implement changes for Glenville State newspaper

President says school needs better quality publication; editors say officials only want to take over control

WEST VIRGINIA -- The Mercury may not be rising this fall at Glenville State College if The Mercury Strategic Plan Task Force follows through with all of its recommendations for the school's student newspaper.

Christopher Williams, office manager of The Mercury, said the college's president formed the committee to make some major changes to the paper, including a revision of the newspaper's charter and development of a publication committee that Williams said could regulate story content before publication.

The task force is looking into areas of the paper's operation, including its budget, format, mission and purpose, number of issues, production schedule, staffing policies and adviser selection as well as ways to "ensure that it meets the mission" of the school.

He said the committee is also considering moving the newspaper office from its current location and totally eliminating the print version of the paper, leaving a solely online publication.

Williams said among the explanations given for the changes is the fact that the paper's budget, which is funded by student fees, is being affected by a decline in enrollment.

However, he also said school officials have been upset with critical articles The Mercury has printed and thinks the administration's view that the paper has not done "an adequate job of informing students on campus" really disguises its desire to control content.

"They don't want us to print anything derogatory to the university," Williams said. "[With the changes] it won't be a student newspaper anymore. It will basically be a P.R. paper. Students will work on the paper itself but they will be told what stories they can go out and get and what stories they can print."

Thomas Powell, the college's president, said the administration has no desire to censor the paper's content but instead wants to see improvements in the quality of the publication, which he said currently falls below journalistic and ethical standards.

Powell said the numerous complaints the school received about the paper's quality -- including issues of grammar, spelling, accuracy and ethics-led him to develop the task force in order to provide The Mercury and its staff with structure and training to "make sure we have something that, at the end of the day, everybody can be happy with."

Williams and another staff member are included on the task force, but he said the administrators are the "key players." The committee is still deliberating the changes, and as a result, Williams does not know if the paper will be able to publish once school begins in the fall.

"We won't be able to put out an issue without an editor, a staff or a location," he said.

Powell said he was originally supposed to receive the task force's report by August 15, which would have given the staff time to produce a paper, but that the committee has asked for an extension.

Fall 2000, reports