College Newspapers Entitled to Full Press Freedoms

The board of the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is concerned by the recent actions of Southwestern College administrators undermining the press freedoms of the student-run newspaper, The Southwestern College Sun.

In May, two Sun staff members attended a student election board meeting, which was open to the public, and recorded video of the meeting. After The Sun reported on the meeting, the school’s Title IX investigator requested the video, invoking the California Public Records Act.

The Sun declined to release the video. In a letter to the newspaper’s staff, Gloria Chavez, the college’s director of employee relations and Title IX, claimed that the paper’s refusal to release the video was a “subversion of the public’s right to access,” which, she said, “appears to directly violate one of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.”

The letter does not say which provision of the SPJ Code of Ethics Chavez believes The Sun violated. Based on our knowledge of the situation, The Sun has not committed any violation of the SPJ Code of Ethics. Protecting unpublished material, which can be done for a variety of important reasons, is a basic tenet of journalism that we urge the school to honor in preparing its students for careers in the field.

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