The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The Daily Beast (Ben Collins) reported last week:
Joel Schmieg says he doesn't know exactly what he wrote that made Jerry Falwell Jr. cut his article out of the Liberty University school newspaper. He just said that the school's president told his editors his story criticizing Donald Trump couldn't run.
"[My editors] read the email to me. He said, basically, the gist was that there were two articles this week about Trump," Schmieg told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. "One was a letter to the editor from a Liberty alum, and they didn't want two things running about him."
Schmieg is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion, where he pens a weekly column. Not unlike national sports radio or talking head TV shows throughout the country this week, he decided to express himself about Trump's "locker room talk" excuse for the leaked audiotapes where the GOP nominee appears to brag about sexually assaulting women.
Refined Right (Ariana Rowlands) quotes an e-mail exchange, which the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Karin Kapsidelis) confirms as authentic, in which Falwell indeed wrote that "we only need one column about Trump's videotape"; he originally said that only the Schmieg story should run, but then changed his mind and said that only the other one should run.
Now the Daily Champion is indeed described as "the official newspaper" of Liberty University, and Falwell defended his position by saying, "The students are not the publishers of the newspaper. Liberty has full editorial control over the newspaper." It sounds from the e-mail exchange (and other sources) as though Falwell does generally exercise such editorial control as to various matters. Editors have the power to decide what goes into the newspaper, and in an official newspaper it makes sense that an official be the head editor.
This having been said, this is both an official newspaper and the student newspaper—and, like many such newspapers, is much more the voice of the students who write for it than of the administration. And especially when Falwell touts the position that, "Liberty University promotes the free expression of ideas unlike many major universities where political correctness prevents conservative students from speaking out," it seems to me hard to justify an apparent "one opinion piece criticizing a presidential candidate per issue" policy in a weekly newspaper a month before the election.