Masthead loss impairs Technician

The Technician, North Carolina State University's student daily newspaper, lost its editor-in-chief and managing editor over a span of two weeks earlier this year. Students are looking to rebuild the group's leadership next year.
The Technician, North Carolina State University's student daily newspaper, lost its editor-in-chief and managing editor over a span of two weeks earlier this year. Students are looking to rebuild the group's leadership next year.

If North Carolina State University’s student newspaper, The Technician, can’t find a way to deal with recent staffing troubles, it may cease to be the campus’ watchdog.

A lack of student involvement as well as internal disputes at the daily newspaper, which was founded in 1920, have put the publication’s future in jeopardy. The Technician is currently without both an editor-in-chief and a managing editor and has been unable to find an editor for the upcoming academic year.

“After losing its editor earlier this semester in a policy dispute, the institution has been essentially leaderless,” a March 10 Technician editorial said. “Today’s paper was only in the stand because of what the staff would describe as a printing miracle.”

Bradley Wilson, coordinator for student media advising and The Technician’s moderator, accounted for part of the lack of student participation by calling this year a rebuilding year. The struggles have forced the members of the newspaper to reconsider the organization’s structure and whether the demands of the editor-in-chief position are reasonable.

But a number of the newspaper’s staff said the problems run deeper. According to several staff members, a problematic relationship between student leaders and Wilson has reinforced the paper’s problems.

In January, The Technician’s editor-in-chief, senior Ty Johnson, was suspended  from his position for the remainder of his one-year term for failing to meet the 2.5 GPA required by the University for students in leadership positions.

The eventual decision to suspend Johnson—though not a decision made solely by Wilson—was the culmination of what Viewpoint Editor Russell Witham, a senior, described as a series of “significant quarrels.”

Wilson acknowledged that he had disagreements with Johnson but declined to comment on the specifics of their relationship. Johnson could not be reached for comment after several attempts this week.

“I’m not going to say the adviser would have had it out for him, but it definitely wasn’t a situation where he was sad to see him leave,” Witham said. “The two of them frequently quibbled, I’d almost say like children a lot of the time. Honestly, they would get in shouting matches.... It was a significant string of problems, starting with payroll issues, going to content management, dealing with corrections and culminating in this.”

Former Technician editor-in-chief, Tyler Dukes, NCSU ’08, noted that Wilson can be “challenging to work with” but is a valuable resource for the staff. One of Wilson’s responsibilities is to challenge the editor, and this structure sometimes lends itself to conflict, he noted.

“But Bradley is an immensely valuable resource for student media,” Dukes said. “He knows journalism well, he knows teaching journalism well and he has a huge list of contacts that kind of help the paper and student media as a whole.”

The Technician lost its managing editor, senior Ana Andruzzi, within two weeks of Johnson’s suspension, when she suddenly left for an internship. Sports editor Kate Shefte, a junior, called the loss of senior leadership at the paper the “last straw” in a series of recent issues for the publication.

In the top editors’ absence, Shefte, Witham and Design Editor Lauren Blakely, a junior, have led the paper as an executive committee, and younger staff members have been promoted much more quickly than in the past.

Witham estimated that to have an effective newspaper, The Technician needs approximately 30 active staff members who contribute beyond writing one piece a week. Currently, there are between 10 and 15 students in the office on a given night contributing to the overall production effort, he said.

The Technician’s woes cannot simply be explained by the general financial problems of the newspaper industry, Wilson said. Its issues are more directly related to a lack of student involvement than to budget problems. The monetary constraints that the paper faces are more related to the financial downturn than to long-term financial weakness, Wilson added.

Dukes noted that this misconception has been the dominant narrative explaining the paper’s troubles in the media. He said there is still a place for a student newspaper on the campus.

In the past, The Technician’s ranks have been filled by students studying everything from the humanities to engineering, agricultural studies and physics—not just students hoping to pursue journalism after school, he said.

There is a certain prestige to having a daily newspaper, Witham said, but solutions such as having a paper that is not published every day are currently being considered. The N.C. State Student Media Board of Directors is currently considering changing both the position of editor-in-chief and how the paper operates.


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