Wake Forest University established an interim faculty advisory committee this week to assist the university and its public radio station, WFDD, as an editorial policy is developed for the station’s news staff.
“They will be asked to advise on the selection of a journalist who will consult with us in our policy development, and we will ask them to review the policy before its adoption by the station and the university,” Sandra Boyette, Wake Forest vice president for university advancement, announced in a Sept. 24 letter to students, faculty and staff.
It already had been announced that a consultant would be sought.
In addition, the interim committee will be available to the WFDD (88.5 FM) news staff, station manager Linda Ward and Boyette to address editorial issues that arise at the station while the policy is developed.
Appointed by Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr., the committee includes Miles Foy, a Wake Forest School of Law professor; Katy Harriger, associate professor of politics; Michael Hazen, professor and chair of the communication department; Wayne King, a journalist and associate professor in the English department; and Harry Titus, associate professor of art. Russell Brantley, a former journalist and retired Wake Forest director of communications, will be a resource person for the committee.
Announcements about the committee and the consultant follow a controversy that arose in early September when WFDD broadcast a story reporting a university decision regarding Wake Forest Baptist Church, an autonomous congregation that meets in Wake Forest’s Wait Chapel. Some WFDD news staff voiced objections in the news media to Boyette’s request that the station limit its coverage of the decision to a university news release containing the full text of a trustee report.
In an Aug. 16 letter to the university community, Boyette wrote, “Because all WFDD staff members are employees of the university, it seemed important to avoid creating any perception of bias in the release of a university statement on a very sensitive issue. I regret the confusion that grew from good intent to ensure the station’s neutrality.”
In her Sept. 24 letter, Boyette wrote, “I remain sorry to have alarmed you about my commitment to objective reporting, because I do not condone censorship. It is my great hope that the steps we are taking will create an even stronger WFDD as it serves the campus and the community.”
WFDD, a part of the university community for more than 50 years, has long been recognized for its classical music and arts programming. In addition to broadcasting National Public Radio programs, WFDD has also expanded its local news programming in recent years.
“As WFDD has grown rather rapidly and become a more complex organization, we have not adequately established editorial policies or structures that relate to news coverage in general and coverage of Wake Forest in particular,” Boyette wrote in her most recent letter. “Most news organizations have procedures to guide management and editors in their decision making and accountability. These procedures safeguard and preserve freedom and responsibility.”
“The events of recent weeks have made obvious our need to establish editorial policy in an open and thoughtful environment,” she continued.