Jesuit Universities Need to Protect Their Press

The Spectator Editorial Board

Loyola University Chicago (LUC) implemented a new media policy that requires their student journalists to obtain approval from University Marketing and Communications before interviewing any employee at the institution.

While LUC revised this policy following the backlash, The Spectator condemns this attack on the press and is concerned for the precedent set by another Jesuit institution. We stand in solidarity with The Phoenix, and affirm their own editorial, “Loyola’s Media Policy is Straight Out of the Trump Playbook.

Loyola University Chicago President Jo Ann Rooney cited “previous reporting errors” to justify the implementation of the policy. However, she refused to say what those errors were. In fact, Loyola left The Phoenix with dozens of unanswered questions due to this new policy.

The Phoenix began a running list of these questions for the university on their website, where the list rounds out at 27 at the time of the publication of this editorial.

The Spectator believes that this is 27 too many.

The Phoenix reports they now receive “perfectly crafted, one sentence statements” in response to interview requests since the implementation of the new policy—or they don’t receive an answer at all.

Dodging questions censors journalism. Robotic emailed statements censor journalism. These are public relations tactics. The Spectator believes that The Phoenix should not be censored for the sake of Loyola’s own damage control.

Questioning those in positions of power and systems of power is the reason journalism exists. It’s in our job description to find out what is working and what isn’t working in our community. Those conversations cannot be conveyed over email. In fact, The Spectator does not allow email interviews for this very reason.

The President of the United States tweeted on Wednesday morning that the “press is the enemy of the people.” Also on Wednesday, Pope Francis said that critics of the Church are “friends with the devil.”

In an era when the press in the United States is under unprecedented attack, how could Loyola not realize the context they’re operating in? The Spectator finds the former media policy tasteless and dangerous within this trying time for the safety and security of the free press and journalists themselves.

We are glad that the administration at LUC decided to rethink their policy that severely limited the freedom of the press—even at a private institution. The freedom of the press is promised in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America to all Americans. The Spectator Editorial Board believes this applies to private Jesuit universities too.

During this already heightened time for the safety of the free press, The Spectator Editorial Board insists that Seattle University takes proactive measures to protect its own paper. We affirm the statements from Vice President of Communications Scott McClellan surrounding the freedom of the press, but we are asking for more—specifically a freedom of expression clause modeled after Georgetown University, another Jesuit university.

The Spectator is exploring options for how to get this clause in the Seattle U Student Code of Conduct so that students who are promised this freedom by the very Constitution of the country we stand in, will unequivocally include the student journalists that work at the newspaper at a private university.

The Spectator Editorial Board