'Anti-university' story pulled from campus paper

July 17, 2008

The University of Sunderland has been accused of censoring a student newspaper article critical of the university.

As part of their coursework, journalism undergraduates write articles for a newspaper called The Wear, which is distributed on campus.

Fraser McClennan, a second-year student, wrote an article that raised concerns about a lack of assistance given by the university to students leaving halls of residence and seeking private accommodation.

Jamie Smith, the paper's student editor, said he was told on The Wear's press day by Kevin Overbury, a journalism lecturer, that the story would have to be pulled. "Kevin said that because Fraser's story was anti-university we couldn't print it, as (the university) wanted to use (the paper) as a promotional tool," Mr Smith said.

"I understand why the university wants to use the newspaper for promotional purposes, and it is a taste of the real world for journalists to have stories pulled, but as the editor of the publication, I wanted to see (it) in the paper," he said.

Mr McClennan wrote to Guy Starkey, associate dean of the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, to complain that the university was "undermining the core values of journalism".

Dr Starkey replied: "You will be aware, I'm sure, that newspaper journalists often have to work within constraints imposed upon them by their proprietors and editors. If you work for a Murdoch paper you probably don't do a piece that knocks Sky very often, for instance!" He advised the student to try to place the story elsewhere.

Mr Overbury was not available for comment.

Chris Rushton, head of journalism at the university, said: "This edition of The Wear splashed on a story about plans being late for a new student bar - hardly an example of kowtowing to university authorities."

He said Mr McClennan's story was "a controversial issue that required more work".

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