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Wednesday, January 7,2009

Point of contention?

The students at The State News learn who’s in charge when the Board of Directors shoots down their choice for editor.

by Neal McNamara


The State News is a student-run newspaper — up to a point.


For the first time in an estimated 10 years, the board of The State News, the student newspaper at Michigan State University, has overruled the student staff on its recommendation of an editorin-chief.

The 12-member State News Board of Directors in October selected Kristen Daum, a journalism senior, to lead the editorial staff. However, the student staff had recommended Craig Trudell, whom Daum appointed managing editor, the second-ranking position in the newsroom.


Marty Sturgeon, the general manager of The State News, said that the choice of Daum elicited surprise among the editorial staff because the students’ recommendation is usually the same as the board’s.

Daum was ultimately chosen because she showed more experience with Web journalism, Sturgeon said.


The board “felt that Kristen was better able to handle the changing atmosphere of news,” Sturgeon said. “Were people upset? Sure they were. I think it was generally a surprise the board did not select the person that the newsroom recommended, because it does happen infrequently.”

Daum said the same.


“It was a change in what the staff was used to,” Daum said. “But it’s not something we can’t move past. We’re all on the same team.”


Despite The State News’ being the student newspaper of MSU, it is not entirely student run. The board always selects the editor-in-chief; the editorial staff can only recommend a choice. Sturgeon said that the board often differs with the student staff on who should head the advertising department.

“The newsroom conducts interviews; they take a vote, give that information to the board, then the board interviews the candidates,” Sturgeon said. “They then take the recommendation from the newsroom as a consideration. But there’s nothing that says they have to (select the student staff’s recommendation).”

The board consists of six MSU students, none of whom work for The State News, three employees of the university — either faculty or staff — and three media professionals. Six board members are elected each year.


The State News bills itself as “Michigan State University’s independent voice” — and it is essentially a private business that just happens to have its product generated exclusively by MSU students; it’s an affiliate of the university, much like the Wharton Center, Sturgeon said.


“All of the decisions aren’t made by students, but all of the content is made by students,” Sturgeon said.


Daum begins her one-year term as editor-in-chief today.



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