Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Fired over Chelsea; First Daughter's Arrival Takes Early Toll: Columnist on Stanford University Student Paper

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Fired over Chelsea; First Daughter's Arrival Takes Early Toll: Columnist on Stanford University Student Paper

Article excerpt

CHELSEA CLINTON had scarcely opened her first textbook when she became news again at Stanford University- without doing a thing.

Carolyn Sleeth, editor in chief of the Stanford Daily, fired a columnist for breaking her rule that after the media blitz surrounding Chelsea's arrival on campus Sept. 19, the paper would ignore her unless "she involves herself in a newsworthy event"

Not newsworthy enough was Sleeth's view of a column by Jesse Oxfeld that questioned the special treatment--by the university and the paper--for Chelsea.

Why is it, he asked in the unpublished column, "that we're all expected to bend over backward to give Chelsea and her family a 'normal' Stanford experience while the first family itself is under no similar obligation?"

"If Stanford wants us all to forget that Chelsea is the daughter of the most powerful man in the world"he said,"the University and the White House must make an effort to play along. The Clintons will accept no limitations on their parental prerogatives, and, at the same time, the University strives to give Chelsea this much-vaunted 'normal experience'... And that raises the frightening possibility that the efforts necessary to protect Chelsea's 'normal experience' will ensure that no one else has one."

The column, which also covered two unrelated subjects, was approved by the opinions editor, Oxfeld said.

Sleeth did not return several phone calls but issued a statement saying that Oxfeld, a paid columnist, was given the option of writing about Chelsea for the Monday, Sept. 22 issue, but he insisted it run the following Friday. Oxfeld gets $20 a column.

A Daily editorial stated the paper "is not in the business of rehashing old news, and the Clinton's arrival had already been thoroughly covered" (E&P, Oct. 4, pp. 12-14).

Sleeth said Oxfeld's discharge was not entirely related to the column, however.

"The violation was the culmination of a series of work-related issues; commented Sleeth, a history major, adding that Chelsea Clinton, like any other student, "is entitled to a private life. Nothing newsworthy has occurred about which Oxfeld could write:

Oxfeld lost the election for editor to Sleeth last spring and admitted they don't like each other.

But the spat was newsworthy enough for the national media, which again descended on campus. Oxfeld was besieged with talk-show offers to the point that the communications and American studies major left a message on his voice mail that he was no longer granting interviews, explaining,"I have devoted too much of my time to this issue and can no longer continue."

Still, he said in an interview that while Sleeth has the authority to fire him, she misapplied her authority.

He said he would decline Sleeth's invitation to write an op-ed piece on Chelsea as an outside contributor.

"I will no longer write for the Stanford Daily," Oxfeld declared.

The Daily editorial, which Sleeth said in a box, "expresses the view of the entire editorial board" contended that Oxfeld"represented the views of a Daily staff member. The Daily reserves the right to not give someone a weekly spot for 'punditry, proselytizing and pontification," especially when the work submitted is a violation of a policy set out to protect students' privacy. …

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