Diamondback strikes at journalism deans, alleges takeover plan

UM officials' advice to hire adviser for paper called `violation,' `insult'

November 02, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - A heated internal dispute over the finances and future of the University of Maryland campus newspaper, The Diamondback, erupted yesterday into a war of words between the paper and the leadership of the UM Journalism School, played out on The Diamondback's front page.

In a banner editorial headlined "Intimidation won't quash independence," Jonathan Schuler, the paper's editor, accused the dean and associate dean of the journalism school, Thomas Kunkel and Chris Callahan, of trying to take control of the newspaper, which has been independent since 1971.

The editorial and an accompanying article described a meeting Oct. 19 between the two deans and members of the board of Maryland Media Inc., the nonprofit organization that oversees the paper.

At the meeting, Kunkel and Callahan voiced concerns about the paper's management and suggested, among other things, that it hire a professional editorial adviser to help in its newsroom. In his editorial and in an interview last night, Schuler said the deans' statements amounted to a takeover bid.

"I take these threats to The Diamondback's independence as a serious violation of the very basic tenets of journalism," Schuler wrote. "The campus should take them as an insult to its collective intelligence and as a sign that its own intellectual independence is in jeopardy."

Last night, Kunkel rejected Schuler's charges as "paranoid" and "spiteful and laced with mistakes," saying the journalism school has no interest in running The Diamondback. The school only wants to see the paper improve as a training ground for aspiring reporters, he said.

"They're trying to say the college is trying to take control, and that's just not true," Kunkel said. "It's not what we're about."

The Oct. 19 meeting occurred two weeks after a Sun article detailing the internal debate over The Diamondback's finances and management. The paper has accumulated a $4 million surplus and in April approved a salary for its non-student manager that by some estimates could have earned him $300,000 a year. It has since revised the salary.

Maryland Media board members and Kunkel expressed hope that their differences could be resolved, but said relations are at a low point.

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