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WIU Student Reporters Can Keep Freelancing

Tim Schroll/WIU

Reporters working for the student newspaper at Western Illinois University will be able to continue freelancing. At least for now.  

The Western Courier’s position on freelancing was called into question recently when the university suspended the editor-in-chief Nick Stewart from his job with pay. The university took action after Stewart filmed and sold a video of a large fight after a Black Student Association event on campus.

The Courier’s Director Rich Moreno says freelancing has always been a common practice at the paper.

“I think it’s important that you get that experience. I think it’s important they make some money because you know; I think that’s ultimately what anyone goes to school wants to get a job, get experience, etcetera.”

The university says Stewart was working for the Courier when he filmed the video and that the recording belonged to the paper.

WIU lifted the suspension this week. The school released a statement saying the Western Courier’s operations policy is unclear, especially in regard to freelancing by staff.

The operations manual was last updated in 2011. It says students are allowed to freelance but should seek permission, but it doesn’t say from whom. Moreno says as editor-in-chief, Stewart would have been able to make that call.

Still, Stewart says he was not working for the Courier the night he filmed the brawl. He says he used his own equipment, uploaded the video to his personal you tube channel and then shared it on the Courier’s website.

He says the controversy won’t deter him from selling his video.

“I still consider free lancing as getting my name out there, providing a product and building essentially my brand or whatever. So that’s something I’m going to continue to do.”

The university wants the Western Courier’s operations policy to be updated. Moreno says it will be rewritten and should be implemented before the end of the school year. He hopes it remains freelance friendly.

Emily Boyer is the Morning Edition host for Tri States Public Radio. She can be heard on-air from 6 to 9 weekdays.