Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Neuharth to Academics: Butt Out

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Neuharth to Academics: Butt Out

Article excerpt

AL NEUHARTH, former Gannett chairman and the founder of USA Today, told an auditorium packed with aspiring writers they must fight off academic attempts to stifle their First Amendment rights.

"I have been hearing about all these establishment types in academe who want to turn back the clock on the First Amendment," Neuharth said in his keynote speech at the College Media Advisers convention in Orlando. "What a bunch of nonsense that is."

Neuharth referred to reports that some college administrations were mistakenly citing the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hazelwood case as a reason to take over editorial control of student newspapers.

The Supreme Court ruled by a 5 to 3 decision to allow high school administrators to censor newspapers if they were part of the school curriculum, but did not include colleges or universities in their ruling.

Neuharth insists the nation's campuses must be a showplace for free expression rights, even though many people at universities allow journalistic access only under duress.

He pointed out that College coaches were even debating whether to permit their high-profile players to be exposed to any sort of public scrutiny.

But Neuharth noted that one coach sees journalists as freaks who are so out of touch with reality that he sees nothing wrong with allowing his players to be interviewed by them.

"Gary Williams, the basketball coach at Maryland, says there are so many weirdos out there, why not let them talk to reporters," Neuharth remarked.

He also ridiculed academic advisers who urge students to get advanced degrees at the expense of solid journalism experience.

"You don't need a master's degree to be a good journalist," Neuharth insisted. "I don't care whether someone is a magna this or a cum laude that. I want someone to work for me who is curious. Someone who is interested in what is happening."

Neuharth contended the best young journalists are those who develop an insatiable appetite for news.

"To get a job, you have to have it here in your gut," he said, pointing to his striped shirt under a red jacket, handkerchief and white tie. "You have to have an edge. But you have to put yourself in the position of your readers. …

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