College board president orders newspaper to can story

MISSOURI -- Student reporters at a Missouri community college were surprised to receive an e-mail from the board president demanding they not print an article in today's paper.

Then they were shocked. Then disappointed. Then angry.

''I feel we were censored,'' said James Foutch, editor of The Eagle at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo. ''I felt we had been treated like children.''

The staff of The Eagle was planning on printing a question-and-answer article that included the results of surveys the paper had sent to the six finalists who are running for college president in today's issue.

On Monday, staff members received an e-mail from college board President Jackie McKinsey saying, ''PLEASE STOP THE ARTICLE. YOU ARE NOT TO USE THE 'INTERVIEW' MATERIAL.''

McKinsey said she e-mailed faculty adviser Kelly Anthony and the staff of The Eagle telling them not to print the candidates' responses out of fairness to the three candidates who did not respond to the questionnaire.

''We've been striving to be honest and fair,'' McKinsey said. ''[The article] wasn't appropriate at this time.''

Students sent the questionnaires to the candidates last Thursday and requested responses by the next morning, Foutch said.

McKinsey said one candidate called the board search committee consultant to express concern that he would not have enough time to answer the questions. The consultant advised McKinsey to instruct candidates not to answer the questionnaire.

According to an article in the Springfield News-Leader, the questions included, ''How should the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the college president function?'' and ''Share three goals for OTC that you will actively work toward.''

McKinsey said she was not acting as board president, but as chair of the search committee when she instructed The Eagle staff and adviser not to print the article.

''All that action had to do with trying to make sure the process had been fair,'' McKinsey said. ''That's what was foremost in my mind.''

But in trying to be ''fair'' to the candidates, McKinsey was not fair to The Eagle, Foutch said.

''We were trying to do a really feel-good 'here's the candidates, meet them.' We weren't doing anything wrong,'' he said.

McKinsey said she does not think her actions amount to censorship. She also said that she does not know much about the role of The Eagle and was surprised to learn the paper does not operate as part of a college course. She said it would be appropriate for a local newspaper to print a similar article because a professional reporter has ''judgment and training.''

The Eagle was distributed today minus the candidates' responses to the questions. As of Thursday afternoon, Foutch said the staff was planning on distributing an explanation of why the questionnaires did not run in the issue.

Foutch said the staff would also like to write an article with students' opinions of what the role of a campus newspaper should be.

Foutch said he is clear on what the role of The Eagle is.

''To be a voice for the students,'' he said.

Missouri, news, Ozarks Technical Community College, The Eagle