A new journalistic adviser for the North Wind was not approved at a special meeting of the student newspaper’s editorial staff.
Jim McCommons, a long-time English professor at Northern Michigan University, was originally approved to takeover the advising position by the North Wind Board of Directors. However, the bylaws gave the editorial chance an opportunity to weigh in on the situation and voted against his appointment 0-6 with one abstention.
After the meeting, the now former Editor in Chief Emma Finkbeiner gave a statement on behalf of the editorial staff.
“We were grateful that we had an interview session with (McCommons) and to have a practical discussion with him,” she said. “We just worried that he may not be motivated to push the staff and be involved with the group dynamic.”
The North Wind editorial staff does not have official procedures for open meetings since most of their staff meetings overlap with the English practicum class. They used an Australian-ballot procedure to vote so there is no way to figure out who abstained. The interview with McCommons was done over video chat, as he is currently out of town. That interview was done in a closed session but the ballots were cast and read in open session.
McCommons joined NMU in 2001 after a career in magazine and newspaper writing. He received his undergrad from University of Pittsburgh and masters in magazine journalism from Syracuse and environmental science from SUNY. He has also published numerous books about gardening and trains and is a regular contributor for Audubon magazine.
He is also a former journalistic adviser at the North Wind, holding the position before Kristy Basolo took over in 2012.
That is why the North Wind Board of Directors approved McCommons 6-0 on Tuesday, April 28. Cheryl Reed abstained from voting. Reed was the journalistic adviser that was ousted in an illegal meeting on April 3.
Finkbeiner said that McCommons’s background was never an issue, but that the professor was not the right fit for the student staff.
“There were no qualms about his ability. It was a question of motivation and passion to do it,” Finkbeiner said.
Now that the editorial staff has vetoed McCommons, the appointment process goes back to the English department for another candidate. There are only two journalism professors, so it is probable the next adviser will not be from the university faculty.
That could be a problem as the community journalist position on the Board of Directors is also open. Kim Eggleston, a freelance journalist and editor known for her work with UP Second Wave, will not return as her term ended this year. The community journalist is appointed by NMU president Fritz Erickson.
Without an appointed adviser, Reed will be retained for the summer issue of the North Wind, which will come out on June 4. That is the first Thursday before the NMU orientation sessions.
The summer issue has already been a controversial topic after NMU vice president and North Wind business adviser Steven Neiheisel called it a special edition that would be a “public relations piece” in an April 20 meeting.
“It’s not a weekly update on the news, it’s not a comment on things,” Neiheisel said. “It’s an orientation edition for the students and parents coming on campus.”
Neiheisel equated it to a paid promotional pullout section published by the Mining Journal to support local business that ran earlier in the month. However, he did not offer a way to create a payment for this style of sponsored advertising. This style of advertisement has been used from Buzzfeed to the New York Times but it is unclear if Neiheisel intended for this to be the case with the summer edition of the paper.
Troy Morris, Jane Milkie and chairperson Aubrey Kall attended the meeting on behalf of the Board of Directors. The Board does not have any scheduled meetings until next school year.