Spec abstains

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deniedSomething’s up in California–at USC, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan was sacked by the school’s Vice President of Student Affairs after being re-elected to the position by his staff. It’s gotten some people upset, garnered a bit of national press, and attracted the attention of the venerable Harvard Crimson, which got 18 college papers to sign and run an editorial condemning the interference (never before has the USC administration denied a staff pick for editor).

Notoriously absent? The Columbia Daily Spectator (well, and Dartmouth, but they’ve stopped publishing). Bwog asked Spec Opinion Editor Miriam Datskovsky about the reasoning behind her choice. Here is her reply:

Thanks for writing. The Harvard Crimson did approach us, but after carefully looking over a draft of the editorial, we decided that we did not feel comfortable signing it. Of course, the Spectator editorial board is not happy about the actions of the USC administration either. But as journalists, we don’t think it is responsible to sign our name to an opinion written in the words of someone else and based solely on the reporting of others. The Spectator editorial board has worked especially hard to do, and be responsible for, its own reporting this semester.



Nice to be financially independent, isn’t it?

Clarification, 10:30 PM: The Spectator editorial board made the decision to not run the editorial.



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  1. miriam  

    Who are we to sign our names to something? What does it mean to say we "support" others? As one of my friends (who is gay) says: "this issue is complex." Almost as complex as my feelings after this one thing that happened to me this one time.
    I am completely, without doubt, a straight woman.

  2. huh?  

    spec can't have opinions about things spec news doesn't report on? for what, vanity reasons? how absurd.

  3. Spec

    Why should Spec jump on the band wagon?

  4. Sprinkles  

    Spec does not abstain. It's just hard up.

  5. and, umm

    isn't the problem w/ spec opinion that it does LOUSY reporting on the issues it covers?

  6. dostoevsky is dead  

    just a few more days and then she's gone.

  7. this  

    really isn't any kind of surprise.

    From the editorial:
    "they must be more than public relations arms of universities, and they cannot operate under the yoke of administrators’ censorship"

    Given Spec's fine record of administration-fellating in recent history (certainly all three and a half years I've been here - and no, the constant and pointless articles on manhattanville don't count) this is hardly a surprise. Wouldn't want ABC cutting that fat budget in retaliation now would we?

    Can we just abandon the spec as lost and have blue and white take over their offices?

  8. Articles  

    That talk about the future of hundreds of people are pointless?

    And it's not like BW doesn't do the same thing...

  9. Money  

    I believe the Blue and White's allocation is much more than any other ABC-funded publication and much, much less than the Spectator's budget. So it's relative whether or not the funding is massive. I'd like to see some of the other publications get more money before the Blue and White's budget gets increased.

  10. Alum

    Wow, Harvard is so0o0o venerable. Columbia sucks. wtg B&W

    • logical error  

      wondering why the spec did not follow the crimson's suit does not mean bwog (or b&w) venerates harvard and denigrates columbia. but making such a leap does make me question the value of a columbia degree...

      • Alum

        Dear "logical error," "venerable" was the word used in the original article -- it wasn't my choice of phrasing. Hope that helps. Practice your reading comp more -- 'til then I'm left questioning the value of Columbia's admissions tests.

  11. I don't get it  

    What kind of mother names her daughter Miriam?

  12. Chas Carey  

    Alright, I'm gonna take a break from writing these papers for a sec, because this is flat-out embarrassing.

    " journalists, we don't think it is responsible to sign our name to an opinion written in the words of someone else and based solely on the reporting of others."

    Alright. Let me see if I understand this statement. "We don't want to jump on the bandwagon without checking this out," is what it seems to be saying. At least, I hope it's saying that and not "we want nothing from outside of Columbia to touch our opinion page." The former way of reading it is a good way to think, especially in the journalism world. If you just "jump on the bandwagon" without doing your own research, you look stupid. So yeah, in principle, this is a good argument.

    How big is your staff, Spectator? How long would it take a few of you, even now, in the midst of finals week, to confirm the details of this affair? It took me about fifteen minutes, and I have forty-two pages of writing due this Thursday.

    So, you "want to be responsible for your own reporting," and you're "not happy" about what's going on. But even though you can be responsible by checking the facts here pretty quickly, you don't want to sign on to this editorial and even just print it online, or something small like that.

    Does that mean you're just going to publish your own editorial condemning it, because you don't want to look like you're playing second fiddle to the Harvard Crimson, like how you usually look? Are you so engrossed in some sort of petty power game gussied up as "personal responsibility" that you can't bother to unite with fellow students to defend the profession you (nominally) engage in for so much of your academic career, this "journalism" you claim to publish?

    Or is this an issue of "fiscal independence?" Yes, the Trojan is not independent, and it must answer to the administration. But when a student asks for transparency in fiscal affairs, or for a reorganization of senior editorial staff, and is denied and then not allowed to return to his position, don't you think that's a blow to the whole concept of a student newspaper to begin with, to the whole concept of journalism, financially independent or not? What if they simply cannot afford to be fiscally independent like yourselves, Spectator Inc.? What if the school won't let them use the name, or distribute on campus? I don't think you realize what a charmed life you lead. You'd be singing a different tune if they took away your news racks.

    Can you imagine what would happen if ABC/SDA decided that the Blue & White had accrued too much debt and refused to accept its staff members? Wouldn't you fight to the death over that, say "you are responsible for working with the clubs you sponsor in a transparent way to ensure they can fulfill their objectives, not just throwing money at them and then lauding their debt over them later?" I sure as hell would. No publication deserves that. Not even you, Spectator.

    Please let me know if I'm seeing this the wrong way, because right now, I don't see any journalism in your statement. I see a petty, shallow lack of commitment from a washed-up opinion section that should be stripped from the paper to save a tree or two, not to mention some dignity. Hopefully I'm wrong. Hopefully you guys have some sort of brilliant reasoning or missing facts that I'm just not seeing.

    Because if not, as a student of Columbia University, I'd be ashamed to have the Spectator's financially independent opinion page dragging the "Columbia" name through the dirt like that. I'd hope that one day something like this would happen to its staff. If people who held the mindset behind this statement still ran the opinion page when that day came, I'd hope I wouldn't be as "personally responsible" as them - 'cause I'd have to give them the coldest shoulder I could possibly throw.

    • jack  

      The Spectator staff isnt that big. Yes, there may be hundreds that list it on their Facebook profile, but in earnest, there is only a SMALL cult of people who are dedicated to the paper on a daily basis. So don't overestimate the Spec's resources.

      Secondly, don't assume that they aren't doing their own reporting right now. There's a good chance they just are taking a while. This past weekend was turkeyshoot and as a result, they've missed quite a few big stories.

      I think Miriam's reason is sensible because if something was reported incorrectly in the Crimson, which is definitely possible given their lengthy corrections box each day, it would have been embarrassing and all of you guys would have said that the Spec shouldn't have signed on.

      Just chill. Despite how seriously everyone takes the Spec (including some on Spec itself), it's a student publication. You try putting out a paper every day in the midst of your 18-credit semesters. It's pretty damn impressive.

      (Full disclosure: I live with a Speccie who I never see anymore.)

  13. hear, hear  

    You, sir, are a great man.

    • Chas again  

      No, not at all. I should've thought before I hit the ol' "post" button on that long and winding monster post above, taken a bit of my own advice.

      We're all students, and while I might've been upset with their decision, it doesn't do anyone any good to have me just rag away on the Spec's staff.

      It's better to look for a solution to the problem than to point fingers and squabble. I shouldn't have let the spirit of being angry about the situation carry over into dealing with fellow students, who I'm sure aren't against freedom of the press or anything like that. I still think not publishing with the other papers was the wrong decision to make, and that the reasoning behind it was flawed, but to get all huff-and-puff about it and assume poor intent on behalf of the publication late at night in between writing papers doesn't help stuff get fixed.

      I am sorry to the staff of the Spec's opinion board for phrasing my own opinion harshly, and let it serve as a lesson to me: it's easy to get upset and lash out; that's how cable news gets its ratings up. It's much harder to get upset and try to channel it productively.

      So yeah, productivity. Even if our student newspaper made the decision to publish its own editorial, at least that's a step towards getting this noticed. You can help out further. Shoot the administrator in charge of this over at USC a polite e-mail and tell him what you think, and how he might resolve the situation. Regardless of differences, you should work with your student groups, not against them. That'd be far more productive than what I did earlier.

      Jeez, I hope this isn't as long as that other sprawling jargon I sent.

  14. Twenty-two

    Who is this pompous ass?

  15. Twenty-two

    Somone needs to smack him upside the head.

  16. btw  

    The opinion section's staff is very small; the news section has a fairly large staff, but they don't do reporting for the Op-ed section.

    Also, whoever criticized Spec earlier for admin-fellating shouldn't think the Blue and White is a bastion of incisive admin-watchdogging (half their analyses seem to rehash Spec articles). Spec's maintained a fairly critical news coverage, and, again, because no one seems to grasp this, the two editorial and news sections are two separate entities.

    But I'm sure all publications can co-exist in financial and staffing dire straits!

  17. hmm

    the answer seems simple to me: why doesn't spec just write its own editorial arguing against student newspapers getting screwed? i believe they do promise that their editorials, columns, and submissions are written by members of the columbia community, so it would have been strange to run something out of harvard. but they do comment on national issues and those at other schools when they see fit, and this seems a good chance for that.

  18. for the record  

    my good friend is a university senator at usc. apparently, fox (the eic candidate) demanded more pay and wanted to delegate more work to the section editors (allowing him to leave the office by 5 pm instead of midnight, which is the usual arrangement) ...the board said they would look into it but in the meantime, he'd have to agree to fulfilling responsibilities as is and he declined.

    there's always more than one side to every story...

    • Zach Fox

      First, I'd like to applaud the creator of this site...the amount of activity on this speaks volumes about the success of both The Blue and White and the Spectator in creating meaningful debate at Columbia.

      I've tried my best to remain quiet during this fiasco and let countless others make arguments for me. But as a journalist, I am bothered by misrepresentations of fact, and I write this response to point out the following errors from Post No. 28:

      First, the decision never made it to the Media Board, as every other election had. The decision came unilaterally from Michael Jackson's office.

      Second, my request for access to our budget and a pay raise was sent Sept. 26 and, as USC continually proposes, supposedly had nothing to do with my rejection as editor.

      Third, my application was not an attempt to squirm out of the hours involved with putting together a daily newspaper. I wanted to work daytime hours so I could implement institutional changes rather than spending night hours correcting proofs. Certainly, I wanted fewer hours in the office, but I only wanted that because I believed it would allow me to effect changes that would allow all editors fewer hours in the office. In effect, I wanted to lead, not manage, the Daily Trojan.

      The last, and most irksome, lie in the post was the university's willingness to work with me on the goals in my editor application. Michael Jackson's office rejected my application once. I resubmitted, and it was rejected again. I begged and pleaded for a meeting with Michael Jackson to better explain my goals, but, alas, I was told the decision was final.

      Thanks for all those who have expressed outrage over this situation. Your words of support and letters to the university have been of great aid to our cause. If any of you have any questions you want answered, feel free to e-mail me at, as I might not check back here...I'm trying to wean myself off of compulsively Googling "Daily Trojan" every five minutes.

  19. so...  

    it sounds like the real question is, why the hell did they select him over all the people who were willing to put in the time and effort?

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