There was a protest at the Bell Tower yesterday in regards to what its organizers call “racist” actions of the Temple News.
The protest, which started at the Bell Tower, gathered a fairly large crowd of supporters of former Temple News writer Joel Avery. As the protestors took their message throughout campus, the number involved declined.
Friends and supporters of Avery, who wrote an article for the Temple News about racial profiling and police brutality that wasn’t published, were there to chant along and carry signs through the streets.
Camille Richards, a junior psychology student and friend of Avery, said she supported the protest because the article was truthful and important to the African American community everywhere, including North Philadelphia and New York, where she’s from.
Kinte McDaniel, Vice President of the Temple University Hip-Hop Society, said he had read the article before pledging his support and that of his organization, but not over claims of racism because he “only knows one side of the story.” He does support Avery because printing of the article was a First Amendment right.
“[Temple News Editor-in-Chief Jill Waldbieser] is willing to risk the reputation of the Temple News,” Avery said. He also said during the protest that it is now “Jill’s paper” because of the inability of the Publication Board and Dean of Students, James Fitzsimmons, to make the newspaper print the article.
In a meeting between Avery and his supporters and Waldbieser and her supporters held on Tuesday, Fitzsimmons said that he tried to act as a moderator for both sides.
The allegations stem from an article that Avery wrote regarding racial profiling of black men for the Sept. 28 issue. After originally being accepted for print by Tanitha Kulsiri, Temple News Opinion editor, it was pulled from print because of a lack of facts to back up Avery’s opinions, according to Waldbieser.
Copy-editors at the paper and Waldbieser said the article was potentially libelous and asked for changes to the article. After Avery took his article to Linn Washington, a professor who teaches a libel law class at Temple. Washington sent a letter to Waldbieser saying that the article lacked libelous content.
Heather Cunningham, then chief copy editor, agreed to meet with Avery to discuss the article and changes, according to Waldbieser. Their first meeting fell through when Cunningham didn’t show up. Another meeting was planned, but Avery said that Cunningham did not show up once again.
According to Cunningham, she had been expecting him in her office in the Economics department, where the original meeting had been planned. Avery ended up meeting with Waldbieser in the Temple News office and changes were made to the article.
“There was a general lack of communications,” said Waldbieser, “both among our staff and Joel Avery.”
The changes that were made included adding an explanation to one of the points that Avery brought up in his article, according to Waldbieser.
At that point it was the beginning of November and the article was to be printed in the Nov. 2 issue, but the issue was, according to Waldbieser, being used for election coverage.
Avery and Waldbieser then agreed for the article to be printed in the Nov. 9 issue, but the article was too long and had to be cut down, according to Waldbieser. At this point, the idea to protest came forward.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa II, a friend and supporter of Avery, who helped plan the rally, said that the planning for the protest started this past Sunday.
“[It’s] always an idea that is in the air,” Asantewaa said of the idea to protest.
Avery said that the idea of protesting would only be used if it was necessary. “We’ve tried since September to not use it,” he said.
At the rally, a petition was passed around to support: the urban column that Avery planned to write, providing proper presentation of the African American community and demand printing of the original article.
“I think we do an excellent job of diversity in each issue,” said Waldbieser on the issues being raised by the protest.
Waldbieser said that the reasons for not printing the article “were not race based.” She also said that articles submitted by Avery would have been printed as long as their style was not the same as the first.
Asantewaa claims just the opposite.
“She has no other motive [but race],” Asantewaa said, “I know covert racism when I see it.”
But Waldbieser is still waiting for hard facts. She says that no other Temple News staff writer has made claims of racist actions on the newspaper.
Waldbieser said urban coverage could become a regular column but not because of the petition. She would rather see a poll of readers before making that decision. She also said that, in the past, a City Beat section had been tried but a regular writer could not be found.