College newspaper advisers caught in the middle of controversies

Should a student newspaper run the name of a female rape victim if she spoke in a public forum on the topic and gave those at the forum her name?

This is an appropriate question to ask in a journalism ethics class when discussing what should and s

hould not be covered and how to go about covering it. But the question becomes more intriguing when following the reaction to the story that was run in a college newspaper.

This recently happened at Bridgewater State University. A member of the student newspaper used the rape victim’s name in the story after she spoke at a public rally. The editor of the Bridgewater State student newspaper has steadfastly defended the paper’s actions. The faculty adviser has been relieved of his duties, according to numerous reports.

At Rutgers, the student newspaper ran a satirical column praising Adolph Hitler. Again, the student newspaper adviser is under fire from the school’s administration, this time for saying the students who wrote and ran this story will learn a valuable lesson from the incident. Finally, in Colorado, a student is threatening to sue a school paper because the paper gave the student credit for a photograph but never paid him.

Such stories aren’t new. The firing of newspaper advisers isn’t new either. Caught between the ethical dilemma of allowing students to do their own work and produce their own newspaper, yet being tasked with defending them for their work, advisers often find themselves at odds with their employers. Even when fired advisers win their battles in the courts, the results can be disappointing.