Editor’s Note: Support needed for Loyola Phoenix amid media policy disputes


Support needed for Loyola Phoenix amid media policy disputes

By Ariana Portalatin

The Loyola Phoenix, the student newspaper at Loyola University Chicago, gained recognition nationwide for its coverage of disagreements between the newspaper staff and college, stemming from a restrictive media policy enforced by Loyola’s communication spokespeople.

According to a Feb. 13 editorial by the Phoenix Editorial Board, a reporter emailed several professors for interviews in pursuit of a story. The reporter did not receive a response from the professors, but instead heard from Communication Manager Evangeline Politis, who called their methods “disrespectful and unacceptable” because the communications office was not contacted first. 

The editorial stated that the media policy created a burden for reporters seeking interviews and information directly from sources. 

A Feb. 22 update on Loyola’s website from UMC Vice President Jeremy Langford stated the school was actively evaluating its media policy. The policy was revised to state that media personnel, college administrators and faculty were welcome to directly engage with each other. Although revisions are not complete, even this small change is a step forward from the previous policy.

Not only did the university force its employees to seek approval before granting reporters interviews, it spread false information about newsgathering on its website in an attempt to back the policy. Some of this includes claims that “off the record” is “virtually nonexistent” and that journalists purposefully alter quotes or will pause at the end of a source’s answer during interviews in search of negative details or stories. 

Not only were these false claims a slap in the face to journalists, they were an insult to professors and mentors who work hard to educate others on ethical practices. 

The university also blamed the policy on liability concerns and inaccurate reporting by the Phoenix. Although they have been asked to clarify the inaccuracies and liabilities, the university has yet to respond. 

The good news is the school has created a task force of stakeholders and experts—including professional journalists—to revise its policy. Hopefully, the university will be able to see how journalists operate and what an appropriate policy should look like. This will require a self-reflection by the college on how it has previously handled media requests. 

The student publication began keeping a list of unanswered questions asked of Loyola’s administration, which included questions about safety, tuition and Ald. Ed Burke’s (14th Ward) connection to the university. Answers to these questions are essential to Loyola’s campus, and the Phoenix pursuing these answers is what journalists are supposed to do. Answering these questions would have helped to avoid any “inaccuracies.”

Fortunately, many recognized the flaws in Loyola’s media policy, and the student publication has gained support and recognition nationally. Apart from nationwide media coverage, two online petitions were created by alumni and faculty in support of the Phoenix. 

Loyola said its media policy was in the university’s best interest, but it puts the campus community at a disadvantage. It keeps Phoenix staff members from being able to do their jobs. It makes the administration seem untrustworthy and deceptive. Worst of all, it keeps information from the people who need it the most—tuition-paying students, faculty and staff. 

If the university wants to protect its brand like it says it does, it should be transparent with information and serve its community. Support for the Phoenix should continue through the policy revision process, and the university should be held accountable to create an appropriate and beneficial media policy.