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Student journalism kerfuffle boils over at Wayne State College; rift over political differences

Posted at 7:06 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 20:52:13-04

WAYNE, Neb. (KMTV) — A fight to publish conservative editorial articles is causing a rift on the campus of Wayne State College in northeast Nebraska.

The student who runs the student senate — who is no stranger to politics — wants to see his opinion piece that criticizes the paper, published.

Blake Aspen, President of the Student Senate at Wayne State, tried to push back on several opinion pieces in the student paper. He has worked on several Republican campaigns and says they need to include more conservative voices.

The student-run paper, which has no obligation to publish an op-ed from anybody, did not publish the editorial.

“I believe that it is worth fighting for because I believe people on this campus should have a battleground for ideas at the Wayne Stater,” said Aspen.

He responded last month to several anti-Pete Ricketts articles published by the paper.

Including one from editor-in-chief Kaitlynn Breeden that criticized Gov. Ricketts' press credential policy, as well as oddly formatted opening lines that also include “If you’re a Ricketts stan, maybe skip this one and just read the news section this week.”

SEE MORE: Ricketts creates credential system for media covering events

Aspen sent in a letter to the editor criticizing the piece, eventually saying they should add conservatives to the editorial board.

After weeks of no response, his article was never published.

Aspen then took to social media, criticizing the student-run paper for not publishing, and faculty for not meeting with him.

In a follow-up editorial, Breeden, the head of the paper called the Wayne Stater, published another op-ed last Thursday. It said the piece Aspen is criticizing was written in the spring and was published accidentally, it also said Aspen made personal attacks.

“This specific letter was an attack on the newspaper, tearing every published word from me apart, twisting them, and then using them to propagate a reality that I am not familiar with,” said Breeden in the October 7 editorial.

3 News Now looked at Aspen's unpublished opinion piece. In it, he says the Breeden editorial included ‘a blathering introduction’ and called another Wayne Stater story ‘borderline slanderous.’

He doesn’t consider it a personal attack.

“Does it call for violence? No. Does it attack someone by name specifically? No. Is it critical of the newspaper? Yes,” said Aspen.

Breeden also wrote that she welcomes conservative editorials, saying “I will do so if he can also allow me to write my own editorials and columns expressing my opinions without continued harassment.”

The column she wrote in response also cites several quotes made by Aspen, but doesn’t add context by showing the entire piece by Aspen or asking him to further explain.

“You can’t cite my paper throughout it and not provide a way for the campus to see it, which is exactly what they did,” said Aspen.

3 News Now reached out to the Wayne Stater via email and phone, as well as their faculty advisor, and received no response.

Wayne State College public relations tells 3 News Now that the students have the right to determine what goes in the paper and faculty can’t stop them as long as they follow the school’s code of conduct. But they also encourage the editorial board to review its editorial policies and to be consistent with existing journalistic and ethical standards.

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