Toward a free collegiate press: An analysis of influences that can lead to censorship at college newspapers

Shaniece Bell Bickham

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to explore the impact that influences at the individual, organizational and societal levels had on content in college and university student newspapers. Specifically, this research examined the ways that influences at the three levels could lead to censorship of the student press. A quantitative study was conducted through the use of online survey research. Student editors, faculty advisers, and academic affairs administrators of journalism and mass communication programs that are recognized as being accredited by the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) were surveyed to gather information about the structure of the newspapers, their roles in the publication and content selection process, and their perceptions of others' roles. The practical purpose of this dissertation was to present methods for avoiding undue influences on content and censorship at both public and private learning institutions in an effort to ensure a free collegiate press. Theoretically, this study offered insight about the influences on media content at the collegiate level, their relationships to content selection and censorship, and other related implications. This research study addressed three sets of hypotheses and three sets of research questions. Previous research suggested that censorship of the student press was an issue at several higher learning institutions. The results of this study identified the types of student newspapers that usually have censorship problems and the perceptions and characteristics of the student editors, faculty advisers, and academic affairs administrators who serve in the positions to influence and censor content. Results showed that influences on content at any given level were related to the amount of control that existed. In addition, perceived differences did exist between student editors, faculty advisers, and academic affairs administrators as they related to influences on content. Perceived differences also existed between groups at public institutions as compared to private institutions.