The journey of a journalist (Part 6C) – PHASE OF OZ: FOUR WINDS, ODDS AND ENDS
Posted on October 3rd, 2009

Shelton A. Gunaratne ©2009

The teething problems of teaching journalism at the CIAE arose out of the fear of the administrators that publication of student writing might taint the image of the institute, particularly its administrators. That’s why they scuttled my original attempt to publish student-written news in the Morning Bulletin.

CIAE Director Arthur Appleton was an authoritarian administrator. So was the institute’s network of power-holders. What if the students used the newspaper space to criticize the director and his collaborators? The potential of defamation was the ready excuse they had for imposing censorship. (Senior lecturer) Mellick was only too ready to step in.

They obviously did not think of journalism as the essence of the Fourth Estate. Their philosophy was that students were too immature to do investigative reporting although that was what I was teaching in Public Affairs Reporting. My philosophy in the “ƒ”¹…”70s was: All good reporting involved investigation. Journalism sans investigation was by and large public relations. Therefore, the idea of a panel to pass journalism students copy did not please me,

However, the administrators understood the need for a laboratory student newspaper. But they were haggling about who should fund it””‚the department of arts (later SHSS) or the institute?

In March 1977, I received an accolade from Roy Theodore, managing editor of the Bundaberg News-Mail, stating that he found the work of my former student Penny Edmun  “to be above standard, which I accept is  not only a tribute to her but also to the training”  

On Sept. 8, 1977, acting arts department head Bob Hay summoned me for a meeting with (senior lecturer) Mellick to discuss the student newspaper. If the department were to become its publisher, both wanted to oversee the content of the newspaper. Mellick said he was perturbed by the failure of my students to use names with courtesy titles (e.g., Mr. Mellick, not Mellick).  On Sept 13, the journalism students voted against the department becoming the publisher.

The students chose the name Four Winds for their laboratory newspaper, the first issue of which (Vol. 1 No. 1) was released in September 1977 with the Student Union as the publisher. The editor was Connie Amoore. The assistant editor was Elaine Buckfield. Alan Quinney and Lindy Vanderlinde were the subeditors.

In her lead article, Buckfield explained why the students named the paper Four Winds: On the authority of Les Bush, a local farmer in Barmoya, our original team of student journalists found out that a portion of the CIAE campus fronting the Bruce Highway was owned in the 1930s by a young man named Michael McFerson who ran a few cattle and built himself a hut from where he could view his pastures. He named the property Four Winds and appropriately announced it on a sign painted on the gate.

The wailing winds, which often lifted the ceilings of the Social Sciences A Building (previously called the Education Building) was another reason to select the name considering that journalism students considered this building their academic home at the time.

Four issues of Four Winds edited by Doug Yuille and Ross McKay were published by the Students Union in 1978 (Vol. 2): three in the first semester””‚March 15, March 31 and April 12; and one in the second semester””‚Oct. 9.  All four were mimeographed sheets stapled together not paying much attention to page design.  Yuille and McKay, who were backed by the Students Union, were responsible for the survival of Four Winds in the second year. (Department head) Sadler advised me on March 21 that I would be held responsible for journalism students’ copy published by the Students Union. Thus, the clash between the administrators’ desire to control content and the students’ desire for free expression was set in motion.

The next year, 1979 (Vol. 3),  witnessed the publication of 11 issues: five in the first semester””‚March 16, March 27, April 12, April 26; and June 21;  six in the second semester””‚July 24, Aug. 7, Sept. 3, Sept. 17, Oct. 1 and Oct. 16. The department of arts and the CIAE administration funded the second-semester issues. 

On April 27, Sadler convened a meeting to discuss the future of Four Winds. Mellick and the two student editors Yuille and McKay were also present. Sadler said he wished to apologize for his past negative attitude toward me and the journalism majors. He said that the department of arts would fund at least three issues of Four Winds in the second semester provided the department becomes the publisher. It was agreed that students would have relative independence to write critical news stories.

But when the June 21 issue edited by Susan Hannaford carried Peter Cassuben’s investigative story headlined “Dispute over “ƒ”¹…”reso’ block safety,” things took a different turn. The story began:

Building specifications for six new residential blocks at the CIAE Residential College [have] been substantially altered apparently to cut costs.

Deputy Director Ron Young said that all alterations to specifications concerning the building have been carried out in accordance with state safety requirements for this zone.

Yuille told me that the June 21 issue of FW containing this story “has been withdrawn from circulation following defamation action contemplated by Ron Young.”                                                         

On July 13, Young called Sadler and me for a meeting, where Young said that the CIAE Council would take up the defamation implications of the “ƒ”¹…”Reso’ story at its next meeting. Sadler undertook to check the copy before publication although, in his opinion, it was better to fold the paper than getting into problem areas. I objected to this position.

On July 17, Young had another meeting with Sadler and me. Young said that based on the Council discussion, the following guidelines would apply to Four Winds:

First, “no matter should appear on the institution [that] is defamatory or is likely to be construed as defamatory.”

Second, “student copy must be submitted to [Young] for clearance and any doubtful material be referred to Doug Sadler who has to seek legal advice, if in doubt.”

The guidelines also required that a copy of the printed paper be forwarded to Sadler for a further check and approval.

The net effect of these guidelines was to make the head of the arts department (later SHSS) the censor of Four Winds. Sadler’s first act of censorship (on Aug. 31) was to request the removal of Ann Butterworth’s story “Aboriginals fight alcoholism and adverse social attitudes” (on the grounds of possible defamation), which appeared in the Sept. 17 issue. His second act of censorship (on Sept. 19) was to pull out a story on Fitzroy River pollution that was already typeset as the front-page lead.

On Sept. 20, Mellick talked to me about the dissatisfaction of the CIAE Council and administrators with the content of the Four Winds. He said that some council members wanted to abolish the journalism subjects or change the lecturer. He also said that Sadler did not want to fund the paper next year (1980). On Oct. 2, Mellick told me at a section meeting that Sadler had asked him to remove me from teaching journalism considering the hassles with FW.

On Oct. 12, I received a memorandum from Registrar Bartley informing that the CIAE Council approved (Oct. 8) the continued publication of Four Winds under the strict observance of the guidelines as laid down.

Despite Mellick’s concerted efforts to impale me, as well as Sadler’s changing psychological moods, I survived into the next year, 1980, which saw the publication of seven FW issues: three in the first semester””‚March 26, April 23 and June 5; and four in the second semester””‚July 30, Sept. 10, Sept. 24 and Oct. 13,     

Meanwhile, a change in management at the Morning Bulletin allowed me to become the Central Queensland’s political journalist for at least a year. Although I wrote my analyses as the CIAE lecturer in journalism thereby bringing in community attention to it, I made it quite clear that my views were not necessarily those of the institute. What spurred me to get back to doing, in addition to teaching, journalism was the ongoing challenge and the roadblocks placed on my path by the network of old buddies. Since I knew everything was anicca (impermanent), I had made up my mind to return to America. I also knew that the more I control my vedanƒÆ’-¾ (feelings), tanhƒÆ’-¾ (desires) and upƒÆ’-¾dƒÆ’-¾na (entanglements) through my sankhara (actions), I could pass on my dukkha (suffering) to the nƒÆ’-¾marƒÆ’-¦«pa (psychophysical individualities) of my adversaries.      

 If I were to apply the CIAE Council guidelines to my work as a political journalist, I could not have written most of what I did for fear of defamation. I prepared myself for the new role of political journalist-scholar by reading heavily on Queensland and Australian politics.

Because I was bringing in publicity for the institute, its administration did not interfere with my political journalism. Removing me from teaching journalism at that juncture would have brought adverse publicity for the institute.

Except for my exchange year at Fullerton College in 1983, and the first semester of 1986 at MSU, I steered the Four Winds as its adviser through 1986. Sadler, as well as those who acted for him, applied the guidelines very seriously. One acting chair, Frances Killion, wanted to have all student copy 48 hours before publication. Deadlines and other exigencies didn’t concern her. As late as the second semester of 1985, she censored three stories from one issue. [Killion died in 2004. She was then associate professor and head of School in Social Work and Welfare Studies at CQU.]

The school heads had neither the time nor the funds to make Four Winds a regular weekly student newspaper. Vol. 5 (1981), Vol. 6 (1982), Vol. 7 (1983) with Fullerton’s Larry Taylor as adviser, Vol. 8 (1984), Vol. 9 (1985), and Vol. 10 (1986) each had three issues in the first semester and four issues in the second semester. After my departure, Mellick [who retired from CQU in 1998] took over as FW adviser. Philip Cass, a ’79 journalism graduate who eventually filled in for me, changed the name of the lab paper to Felix Culpa.

The revengeful actions of those who ran the SHSS gave me the impression that they were following what Hindus call the matsya nyaya (logic of the fish) by “devouring  one another like the stronger fishes preying upon the feebler,” as explained in the Mahabharata.

Whirlwind World Tour

Prior to starting Four Winds in the second semester, I left Australia on April 30, 1977, for the United States to join the World Press Institute Class of ’67 tenth anniversary reunion. On May 1, the alumni gathered in Washington, D.C., and met at the home of Michael Johnson, a former WPI assistant director, for dinner. The founding WPI director Harry Morgan welcomed us. After six days of meetings and interviews with officials at the State Department (e.g., Cyrus Vance, Hodding Carter III, Pat Derian, and Barbara Ennis), Brookings Institution and other places, we went to Saint Paul, Minn., where we met our old friends and host families, interviewed the executives of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, and attended lectures.

The reunion included three days in New York, where on May 17 I joined my former Lake House colleague Thalif Deen for a Sri Lankan dinner of dhal and beef curry. The same day, I ate lunch with Columbia Journalism School professor Richard Baker and master’s candidate Ranggasamy Karthigesu, who were my colleagues at USM, Penang. I then crossed over to Europe to visit London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Berlin, where I attended the annual conference of the International Communication Association (May 30-June 3).

My next stop was Sri Lanka, where I spent four days (June 5-9) meeting family and friends from Peradeniya days (H.G. Gunawardene, T.P.G.N. Leelaratne, B.M. Kiri Banda and D.B. Ranatunge) and Lake House days (D. C. Ranatunge and Harold Peiris).

After a stop-over in Singapore, I returned to Rockhampton on June 12.

My next long overseas trip was to California to take up an exchange teaching position at Fullerton College. I left Rockhampton on Feb. 2, 1983, and returned on Feb. 2, 1984.

Fate of Journalism at CQU

Twelve years after I left Rockhampton, CQ University (with several campuses within Australia and overseas) appointed Alan Knight as the chair of e-journalism and media studies in 1998, the same year Knight was awarded a PhD by the University of Wollongong. Following the restructuring of CQU into two main faculties and placement of the restructured schools and their programs within these two faculties, Knight shifted to Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. Knight told me that journalism is no longer taught as a degree or even a major at CQU. The odd subject may have survived. I visited CQU’s journalism unit at the old Courthouse Building in Rockhampton in mid-July 2003. Lecturer Jeff Young was running the lab paper Felix Culpa since the departure of Cass in 1996. Young and tutor Kasun Ubayasiri from Sri Lanka showed me around.

In 2006, with the untimely death of Young and the resignation of Knight, the journalism program that CQU inherited from CIAE came to an end. A third lecturer had a serious drinking problem and “retired” after what seemed at the time to be huge damage to the reputation of the program. Knight told me that executive dean “Richard Smith took some delight in closing journalism down.”

 Next: Part 7″”‚My Return to Minnesota

[The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead. He dedicates this installment to the memory of the late Harold J. M. Peiris and the late Chris Gooneratne, both of whom served as exemplary Lake House journalists.]

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