The Alligator doesn’t have a news adviser on staff, and I think it’s for the best.
The Daily Tar Heel, UNC Chapel Hill’s student paper, just hired a non-student adviser, Erica Perel. She was a staffer for the Charlotte Observer.
In an opinion piece in the Daily Tar Heel about the hiring, Perel was quoted as saying:
“It’s a tough line to straddle … I want to offer constructive criticism, but I also don’t want to scare people away from a story if I’m too critical. That’s going to be something to navigate.”
It worries me that there don’t seem to be firm guidelines in place about how much editorial oversight the adviser would have.
In the Alligator’s case, Mike Foley, the reporting professor at the UF J-school, does critique our papers each week. Jessie and I meet with him, and he tells us his take on our coverage of the week’s news.
However, he does it without pay and with no strings attached. He’s told us we’re under no obligation to take his advice. He also told us during our first meeting that he won’t make our editorial decisions for us.
I see the benefits of an adviser. The Daily Tar Heel position appears to be more of a writing coach than an unofficial editor. I can also understand how having an adviser would bring valuable experience into a young newsroom unfamiliar with making big news decisions.
But after you hire “adults” to oversee your paper — well, how can you really call yourself a “student” paper anymore?
In my resume, I can say “managing editor” knowing that I did both those things — managed and edited the paper. When the paper goes out each morning, I see it as having my editorial stamp of approval. If we had an adviser, I would always feel like I had someone looking over my shoulder.
I make my own managerial and editorial decisions at the Alligator, and as much as it scares me to make the weightier ones, at least I can take full responsibility for them.