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Editors association pulls funding from HU: Group withholds $55,000 grant

Nov. 12, 2003

By Kerrie Frisinger
Daily Press
Newport News, Va.

Three weeks after the Hampton University administration confiscated an edition of the student newspaper, the American Society of Newspaper Editors announced Tuesday that it was pulling funds from the university.

ASNE decided to withhold a $55,000 grant intended for a 2004 summer training program for high school journalism teachers at Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, officials said.

"We’re an organization that is devoted to the interests of newspapers and is devoted to the First Amendment and everything it stands for in our society," ASNE President Peter Bhatia said Tuesday. "And the actions that Dr. Haysbert took fly in the face of that."

HU’s Acting President and Provost JoAnn Haysbert wanted a letter she wrote about the university cafeteria’s recent health code violations to run on the front page of the Oct. 22 Homecoming edition of the student-run Hampton Script, students said. When newspaper editors put Haysbert’s letter on the third page and ran their own article on the front instead, the university confiscated 6,500 copies of the issue.

The student staff agreed to run a reprinted issue of the Script featuring Haysbert’s letter on the cover in exchange for the formation of a task force to examine the future of the newspaper.

ASNE first voiced doubts about the grant a day after the university confiscated the paper.

Chris Campbell, director of HU’s journalism school, said in October that the Knight Foundation, which gives money to ASNE and could also fund future projects at HU, was also questioning how journalism is taught at the university.

The journalism school does not control operations at the Hampton Script, but Campbell and others have said that the administration’s decision about the newspaper casts a shadow on the entire campus.

Sarita Scott, HU’s director of university relations, said Haysbert was out of town Tuesday evening. Other university officials could not be reached for comment.

In light of the recent events surrounding the Script and because "there’s been no sense of contrition" from the university, Bhatia said it didn’t seem right for his organization to fund journalism programs there.

Diana Mitsu Klos, senior project director for ASNE, said the organization will reallocate the $55,000 toward other aspects of its High School Journalism Initiative — online publishing, an educational Web site and partnerships between high schools and newspapers.

Training programs for about 160 high school journalism teachers will still be available next summer at five universities in other states, Klos said.

ASNE has not ruled out reinstating funds to HU at some point in the future, said Bhatia, who is also executive editor of The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.

"We understand that there’s a lot of good work being done at Hampton, the Scripps Howard school," Bhatia said. "Our intention here is not to do any harm to the university, certainly not to do harm to the j-school and the students."

Copyright © 2003, Daily Press. Reprinted with permission.