The editor of the student newspaper at New Mexico Highlands University says a school vice president pushed her not to publish the police crime log or other stories perceived as negative.
Senior political science major Rachael Ball, La Mecha’s editor, said Judy Cordova, vice president for student affairs, urged her not to publish the police blotter — which lists campus crime incidents — because it casts the university in a negative light.
Ball said Cordova also rejected a story about a campus security officer who was arrested on suspicion of trafficking of cocaine.
La Mecha had not published for more than a year, but was revived late last semester. In Ball’s first edition, she printed the blotter, but left it out of the second edition because of Cordova’s stance and because campus police denied her request for the information, she said.
“She told me specifically not to print the blotter,” Ball said. “She said she didn’t feel the blotters were informative and that they reflected poorly on the university. News is both negative and positive. We’re not an advertisement for Highlands University.”
Cordova said in an e-mail that she wanted the first La Mecha to be upbeat to reintroduce the newspaper and that she was pleased that Ball got it operating again.
Cordova said she did not know the newspaper would print the police blotter until she read it, and that her office had received several complaints about it.
Ball said no students complained to her.
Cordova said she wants to encourage the paper to make sure it has all the facts before printing stories, positive or negative.
“It is difficult to keep the newspaper alive without a journalism program. This is a student newspaper, and we need students to keep it alive,” she said.
Ball said Cordova’s intention, to reduce negativity on campus, is good but misguided.
“Any member of administration who tries to censor the newspaper is stepping out of bounds, but they can make suggestions,” Ball said.
Another former editor, Khushroo Ghadiali, alleged Cordova urged the newspaper not to publish the blotter and other negative stories during his tenure.
Cordova, however, contended Ghadiali never requested a blotter, and that he was referring to a story he wanted to publish with a “very negative tone” that she and the publications board opposed. The board, made up of student government and faculty members, has responsibility over both the student newspaper and radio station.