In-house editor suspended

April 24, 1998

The editor of Middlesex University's in-house newspaper, billed as "the free voice of the university", has been suspended after a row over free speech, writes Phil Baty.

Unison, the union representing Suzi Clark, editor of North Circular and head of media relations at the university, confirmed the suspension. The university refused to comment on "the private and personal details of individual members of staff" and would not confirm or deny the suspension, The free-speech row came to a head last month when university governor and philosophy lecturer Jonathan Ree complained that an article he had written for North Circular had been "censored" by senior management.

Ms Clark had agreed to publish the article, which was critical of a recent restructuring at the university and a "culture of conformity", but director of marketing Joe Ormerod intervened. After failing to agree an edited version, the article was scrapped.

In North Circular's first edition 25 years ago, Bobby de Joia, the editor, said: "North Circular has a sacred duty to make space available to all those who want to be heard." But in the first issue of 1998, the strap-line "Free voice of the University" was removed.

An editorial in the January 15 edition explained "changes" to be made by marketing services. "A modified paper will focus on internal staff issues: it will continue with its traditional features, such as 'letters to the editor' and will continue to be distributed via its campus distribution points."

For readers outside the university, from "the local community, schools and colleges, overseas offices", a new publication will be issued "about ten times a year" with no letters or opinion articles.

Christine Hodgson, chair of the Higher Education External Relations Association and head of media relations at the University of East London, said: "Every editor (of an in-house newspaper) has to be very conscious about what the institution expects of the paper, and how and why the paper was set up. Some other in-house journals are straightforward management and marketing tools, others are not."

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