Chicago State University's student newspaper, Tempo, has stopped publishing. Again.
Confused? Don't worry, there's been lots of turmoil at CSU ever since ... well, it feels like since forever.
The quick recap: Tempo was not published between 2003 and 2008, then started again briefly in late 2008 before stopping in January. It restarted in April and published a handful of editions before the end of the school year.
In February, Tempo’s former editor in chief, George Providence, and one of the paper’s former advisors sued two CSU administrators, saying that they had tried to censor the paper’s content.
Neither of the defendants are at CSU anymore. Interim President Frank Pogue's term ended in June and spokeswoman Patricia Arnold departed in July. The case is still open, as of today.
Back to Tempo: Providence says he hung up his hat at the end of the school year after because his grades were suffering. There are no other students qualified to take over the paper and it had lost its few writers, Providence says. But getting the paper running again will take more than just another leader, he says.
“If the supports were there in the traditional sense that a university supports its paper, then I would entertain fairly strongly being part of Tempo in whatever capacity,” Providence says.
During his stint as Tempo’s editor, Providence says he faced intimidation from administrators who didn’t want the paper criticizing CSU.
All this, need we remind you, was happening as CSU blundered through a presidential search process that had faculty and students screaming that they were being excluded and that the Board of Trustees was running roughshod over the campus.
Tempo's two most dedicated writers, Mason Harrison and Alma Campos, resigned last year after dealing with “subtle censorship” and problems getting their stipends from administrators, Harrison says.
Harrison is now the editor in chief of the Cougar Chronicle, an online-only newspaper that is not getting any funding from CSU. It is hosted by a company that provides Web space for many college newspapers.
“What’s important about this is we have an independent student medium on campus,” Harrison says.
For now, he and Campos are writing all of the site’s content, with updates every two weeks. The students published two editions of the Chronicle in August and September of 2008 as well.
Harrison says attracting more writers is hard because CSU has only recently started offering journalism classes, and writing for a campus publication isn’t a required part of those classes.
“Most of the folks here are part-time students,” Harrison says. “They’re here to get their degree and go home.”
Harrison and Campos are avoiding producing a printed version because of the costs and equipment it would require—in addition to making the publication dependent on CSU for funding.
Harrison is hoping he can convince journalism instructors to let their best students receive extra credit for writing for the Chronicle. He’d like to expand the Web site’s offerings to include a podcast and photo slideshow – and take a hard look at the campus’ new president, Wayne Watson, who officially starts Oct. 1.
“Since we view ourselves as an investigative paper, the issues surrounding Wayne Watson will be a top priority for the publication,” Harrison says.
Providence says Harrison and Campos have the chops to pull that off. Getting a printed edition in front of people would make a big difference, though, he add.
“If they really do have free reign to write what they want to write … if at the very least they can get it distributed to the administrators, to the faculty, I think it will have a lot of impact,” Providence says.
I called CSU provost Sandra Westbrooks Friday to ask about Tempo's demise. Her office says she'll have a comment shortly. I'll keep you posted.