Who Controls Content Decisions? External Influences on College Media





Issues of censorship in higher education student media are common and frequent, however it is unclear how often and to what degree college newspapers experience external influences. This study examines censorship in collegiate media through in-depth interviews with student newspaper editors and advisers. Specifically, this study calls upon the recalled experiences of editors and advisers to explore external content pressures, from whom those pressures are felt, and how editors and advisers deal with those pressures. It then identifies some recommendations for organizations to implement to protect editors and student reporters from external pressures.

Author Biographies

  • Christopher E. Etheridge, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
    Christopher Etheridge is an Assistant Professor of Multimedia Storytelling in the School of Mass Communication at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • Lindsie Rank, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
    Lindsie Rank is a Program Officer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Abrams, J. M., & Goodman, S. M. (1988). End of an era? The decline of student press rights in the wake of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Duke Law Journal, 37(4), 706-732.

Bert, R. E. (1952) Trend is Toward supervision of student newspapers. Journalism Quarterly, 29, 62-65.

Bickham, S., & Shin, J. (2013). Organizational influences on student newspapers. Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, 28(1), 1-30.

Bodle, J. V. (1994). Measuring the Tie between Funding and News Control at student Newspapers. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 71(4), 905-913.

Bodle, J. V. (1997). The Instructional Independence of Daily Student Newspapers. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 47(4), 16-26.

DeFrank, T. M. (1967). Administrative Regulation of the College Newspaper. Editor & Publisher, 100, 14-15.

DeJohn v Temple University, 537 F.3d 301 (3d Cir. 2008).

Devol, K. S. (1965). Major Areas of Conflict in the Control of College and University Student Daily Newspapers in the United States.

Dickson, T. (1994). Self-Censorship and Freedom of the Public High School Press. Journalism Educator, 49(3). 56-63.

Dudley, B. M. (1969). Control of Small College student Newspapers. Journalism Quarterly, 46, 154-56.

Eberts, M. A. (1992). Comparing groups of California community college newspapers: A search for editorial independence. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 0572257).

Edwards, V. E. (1966). “Survey Reveals Little Freedom for the College Editor.” In Estrin, H., & Sanderson, A., Freedom and Censorship of the College Press (pp. 264-65). Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers.

Enloe, G. E. (2011). Examining the effects of Hosty v. Carter decision and prior restraint on the collegiate press: A qualitative study. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 1520999).

Filak, V. (2012). A Concurrent Examination of Self-versus-Others Perceptual Bias and the Willingness to Self-Censor: A Study of College Newspaper Editors and Advisers. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 89(2), 299-314.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972).

Holmes, I. (1986). Censorship of the campus press: A study of 18 university newspapers. The Gannett Foundation.

Hosty v. Carter, 412 F.3d 731 (7th Cir. 2005).

Jeffries, T. (2015a, Oct. 7). Wesleyan student government considers cutting the Argus’ printing budget in half after diversity debate. Student Press Law Center. Retrieved from http://www.splc.org/article/2015/10/wesleyan-student-government-considers-cutting-the-argus-printing-budget-in-half-after-diversity-debate.

Jeffries, T. (2015b, Nov. 11). A lack of diversity in student media sparks frustration, debates across the country. Student Press Law Center. Retrieved from http://www.splc.org/article/2015/11/lack-of-diversity-in-student-media-sparks-debates.

Kaisor, S., & Darrah, E. (1996). Censorship of the Collegiate Presses. Journal of the Association for Communication Administration, (2), 111-123.

Keierleber, M. (2015, May 6). Student journalists at Iowa community college allege harassment, intimidation in First Amendment lawsuit against administrators. Student Press Law Center. Retrieved from http://www.splc.org/article/2015/05/student-journalists-at-iowa-community-college-allege-harassment-intimidation-in-first-amendment-lawsuit-against-administrators.

Keyishian v. Board of Regents of University of State of New York, 385 U.S. 589 (1967).

Kopenhaver, L., & Click, J. (2001). High School Newspapers Still Censored Thirty Years After Tinker. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 78(2), 321-339.

LeBoeuf, T. (2015, June 3). Dorm mold story leads to adviser’s termination, student journalists allege. Student Press Law Center. Retrieved from http://www.splc.org/article/2015/06/dorm-mold-story-leads-to-advisers-termination-student-journalists-allege?_h=092b18c9-4c42-471b-922f-c6df65e7ca7e.

LoMonte, F. (2013). The key word is student: Hazelwood censorship crashes the ivy-covered gates. First Amendment Law Review, 11, 305-363.

Loving, J. (1993). Censorship of student newspapers at public and private colleges in eleven Midwest states. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 9401975).

Paxton, M., & Dixon, T. (2000). State free expression laws and scholastic press freedom. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 55(2). 50-59.

Russell, B. (1952). Trend is toward Supervision of Student Newspapers. Journalism Quarterly, 29, 62-65.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).

Thomason, T. G. (1984). Freedom of the Student Press at Southern Baptist Colleges & Universities. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 8414801).

Wheeler, D. (2015, Sept. 30). The Plot Against Student Newspapers? The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/09/the-plot-against-student-newspapers/408106/.

Will, M. (2015, Oct. 19). Hundreds of Crimson White papers stolen; editor suspects fraternity pledges. Student Press Law Center. Retrieved from http://www.splc.org/article/2015/10/hundreds-of-crimson-white-papers-stolen-editor-suspects-fraternity-pledges.