From the Newsroom: Understanding the Students Publishing Company board

Maddie Burakoff and Alex Schwartz

In this series, Daily staff members hope to provide more transparency about how we operate. If you would like to submit a question to be answered here, please send an email to [email protected].

Columnists featured on this page often receive angry responses from alumni threatening to withhold their donations to the University because of their pieces. Some would say they had communicated their dissatisfaction to University administrators, confident that action would be taken against both The Daily and the writer in question. What these eager readers fail to take into account is that Northwestern doesn’t have the ability to engage in such censorship. That’s largely due to the existence of the Students Publishing Co. board.

The Daily’s editorial body is fully student-run and independent from the University. There are gray areas — future iterations in this series will explain those — but we enjoy an incredibly privileged position by not having to answer to NU in any of our editorial decisions.

The SPC board is not under control of the University, and its purpose is to support The Daily’s editorial content and the students who produce it. The publication’s bylaws indicate that 11 members — faculty, staff and students — should make up the board.

Charles Yarnoff, the current chairman of the SPC board, said there is a “firm understanding and commitment” among board members that they serve The Daily in an advisory role and are not involved with editorial decisions.

John Byrne, an SPC board member and a former Daily editor in chief, said he couldn’t remember a time when the SPC board had interfered with newsroom decisions, including during his term in the late 1980s.

The board’s main functions are managing donations from alumni, purchasing necessary items for the newsroom and providing advice on legal and ethical issues should students seek it, Byrne said. He added that the nature these functions have remained largely constant over time, usually fluctuating according to student need or a changing media landscape, if at all.

Byrne said the intent of SPC is to provide institutional support that says, “We’re still here, and we’re not going anywhere, and we’re here to help and support you and keep you on your feet.”

— Maddie Burakoff and Alex Schwartz, Print Managing Editors