What Did We Learn From Paul Isom’s Feud with East Carolina U. As Case Closes?

Instead of being fired, Paul Isom, has now resigned from his position as student media director at East Carolina University, a change in tune and an opportunity to reflect on what we all learned from this ordeal that began in January.

Courtesy:The Reflector

All who were hoping Paul Isom would re-gain his job as student media director at East Carolina University can forget about that notion.

As of Friday, Isom has officially “resigned” from his position overseeing The East Carolinian, the newspaper that ran photos of a streaker who took the field during halftime at a East Carolina University football game last November.

In a post here last month, I shared comments from Isom’s address about the ordeal given during the 2012 AEJMC Southeast Colloquium at Virginia Tech.

“I was fired in retaliation for an editorial decision, students made,” Isom said in the March 9 keynote address.

Following several weeks of negotiations with East Carolina officials, my former University of Alabama colleague has changed his tune.

A joint statement crafted by lawyers for both Isom and ECU even included a nice quote that, at least on the surface, makes it appear the story had an OK resolution.  Isom received  $31,200, which is the cost of health insurance and salary for six months at his former rate of pay.

“This allows us all to get on with our lives, without having to drag this out indefinitely,” Isom said in the statement released Friday.  “I truly enjoyed my time at ECU. The students were eager to learn, and were always very professional.”

So What Did We Learn?

1. Don’t Jump to Conclusions

First Amendment and student expression advocates like myself should better investigate cases before jumping to conclusions right?

I suppose that’s why the Society of Professional of Journalists (SPJ) and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)   were slow to jump on the bandwagon defending Isom.

2. Things Are Not Always What They Appear

Despite the nice statement released Friday, my guess is there is a lot more to this case than the general public will ever know.   Sometimes some things are best handled behind closed doors, a hard pill for those of us in journalism to swallow.

Maybe Paul Isom’s case was not the test case that we all thought it would be for how media advisers should fight the good fight for their students, at all costs.

3. New Direction for ECU Student Media Will Be Revealed Over Time

I guess we should take ECU officials at their word.  In Friday’s statement, they reiterated that Isom’s (now) resignation was part of their effort to “take student journalism at The East Carolinian in a new direction.”

4. Isom’s Issues Present A Case Study To Be Reviewed for Years To Come

In spite of all that’s been said about Paul Isom’s case, the convincing arguments he made for why a school like ECU would take the action that it did are noteworthy.

I know I’ll be referring to the video from Isom’s address on my YouTube Channel from time to time.

Those of us who teach journalism have a duty to examine such issues as we socialize new publication staffs into their role as watchdog journalists in a culture where the relationship between university officials and student journalists is antagonistic.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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