University fires student media director

On Wednesday the university dismissed its student media director, Paul Isom.

The dismissal came nearly two months after The East Carolinian, the student newspaper that Isom advises, published nude photographs of a streaker on the front page.

The controversial photos ran in the Nov. 8, 2011 newspaper after a streaker had run onto the field at a home football game the weekend before.

The decision to publish the photos resulted in an uproar both locally and nationally.

University administrators said the photos were “in poor taste” and held meetings with those involved in the decision to publish the photos.

Isom said that his termination was not given any specific reasoning.

“They were very careful not to give a specific reason,” said Isom. “I asked twice.”

Isom has been with the university since 2008 and has worked as a student media advisor/director for about 15 years.

Isom said after the photos were published his interactions with administration “changed fairly noticeably.”

He said that he had very little time to explain the role of student media and when he did he was ignored.

Isom, along with advising The East Carolinian, oversaw the campus radio station, WZMB, television station, Campus 31, magazines Rebel and Expressions, and yearbook, Buccaneer.

Several media outlets, including the Daily Reflector and television stations, have contacted both Isom and administrators about his dismissal.

For more information about Isom and his termination, be sure to pick up a copy of The East Carolinian on Tuesday.

This writer can be contacted at

20 Comments for “University fires student media director”

  1. anna

    Please keep your opinionated politics out of our paper.

  2. Ashley

    Good job, ECU Admin. This is well overdue. When the student run media brings National attention to ECU in such a negative way, a change needs to be made. It was inappropriate for the newspaper to post those photos unedited, and Mr. Isom was responsible for creating an environment that allowed the paper to disgrace the school. His actions should not have been tolerated. Freedom of speech should never overshadow common sense and decency.

    • iratepirate

      @Ashley: Worrying about the portrayal of ECU in a negative light vs. reporting the news is problematic. If a newspaper were to worry about negative portrayal versus reporting the news, a lot of the hard news stories would not be reported. And thus what good is a newspaper which does not ask questions and expose the good along with the bad.

      The newspaper has not disgraced the school, in fact the opposite is true, the administration has disgraced the school with it’s heavy-handed personnel action against Mr. Isom, as a reaction to the questionable content which was published in the form of the streaker photos.

      With regards to “common sense and decency”, your perception of common sense and “decency” is different from my perception and the perception of others. Should the news media dummy down of fluff the news just because you or someone else doesn’t like whats printed?

    • Layla

      Oh God this was overdue! Remember Ben Cochran’s articles? The ones that got international attention and embarrassment?! Where was the advisor then?

  3. Cassie

    I worked with Paul a few years ago and can say the man is good at what he does. The problem is that he’s a professional operating under ignorant, biased administrators who want his news to conform to their image. It’s a shame. News is not suppose to be skewed to make anyone look better. What kind of world would it be with that type of reporting? TEC was accurately reporting what had happened and as a journalist, I get it. It’s hard explaining that to the laypeople.

  4. Truth

    You want to blame someone for the stupid streaker photo? Blame the editors who wanted to be sensationalistic and salacious.

    Don’t blame a man who advises them and doesn’t have the final say on a student-run newspaper that doesn’t receive state funds. Even is Isom had told the editors not to run the photo, they very well could have (and probably did) run it anyway.

    But ECU can’t fire the students working at the newspaper, so they found their scapegoat in a vain attempt to show their displeasure.

    Hope you’re still proud of yourselves, TEC editors …

  5. Melissa

    When so much of the news is altered either by press or government, the East Carolinian should be praised for their accurate reporting. East Carolina has the right to be unhappy with the streaker’s actions. But at the same time they received a lot of “free advertising” because of the streaker and no matter what anyone at ECU may say, everyone knows that free advertising is a good deal. They don’t complain to Playboy about making the party school list, so should this be treated any differently. Come on! This is 2012. What ECU student or alumni hasn’t seen someone naked? Anyone who grabs a copy of the TEC is old enough and mature enough to handle nudity. (Heck, even ECU promotes nudity in their figure drawing classes. Isn’t the pot calling the kettle black?) And how about the security working the stadium? Had there been more security personnel or had they made a better attempt to stop the streaker it may have never happened. If ECU is going to reprimand, let’s clean house and start 2012 with a clean slate. It’s not his fault the guy streaked and got away with it. Fair is fair.

  6. Dan

    As both an alum and professional journalist, I’m deeply disappointed by the university’s cowardly and spiteful dismissal of Isom. Its decision to reactively protect its prudish sensibilities is in egregious opposition to the spirit of the First Amendment and is counterproductive to the endgoal of preparing student-journalists for the challenges they’ll face as professionals.

  7. Jenny

    University administration should be ashamed of this decision. A student newspaper advisor should not make editorial decisions, and therefore should not be punished for them.

  8. Ranting Pirate

    Isom was balls deep in trouble. Glad this is finally over.

  9. CPR

    First of all, lets take a look at this article and every other article written about this matter. The university did NOT give an official answer as to why they fired Isom. It was a personnel issue. Therefore HOW can all of these news outlets report that it was because of the naked photos!? Why are we assuming that this ONE incident caused the university to fire Isom? Why is everyone so quick to put those two together and accuse ECU of doing something “so wrong.” I can promise you that we don’t all know the facts- but some of us DO know more than others- those of us that have worked with ECU, TEC and Isom in the past.

    Further more, when knowing that these photos would cause an uproar, why publish them? I was shocked to see these photos in the paper. When someone goes to buy a Playboy the magazine is in a black sleeve. Yet, a student newspaper has the right to show male genitalia on the front of its issue? Well yes, they do. But they shouldn’t. Its just poor taste. Just because someone has the right to do something doesn’t mean they should do it. Its embarrassing. ECU is a phenomenal school but many students know we are constantly having to defend our school to other institutions. Publishing those photos made this paper look trashy. First a sex column glorifying sexcapades… and now naked photos. Excellent TEC. Good job. Please continue to look for your publication at the “embarrassing” end of the table at the college media conference.

    Lastly, I see this as a way for The East Carolinian to get attention for their paper. Well congratulations TEC … you got it. People are reading. So can you now start writing better articles so we aren’t continuing to waste our time?

  10. Bill Rogers

    This streaking was done before tens of thousands of people and was legitimate news. The student editors had a right to make the decision they did and the advisor couldn’t legally have stopped them.
    ECU administrators overreacted and they are the ones who gave a black eye to North Carolina as intolerant of a free press.
    Let’s hope this decision ends up in court, where ECU will lose.

  11. Melissa

    When someone goes to purchase a playboy magazine, it may be in a sleeve, but they know exactly what they are purchasing. And when you grab a copy of TEC you know that you are grabbing a copy of a college paper written and assembled by college students for college students. It is what it is.

    • CPR

      Yes, they do know what they’re purchasing- and every time I grabbed The East Carolinian I didn’t expect to see genitalia. Yes, in this case I expected to read about the incident and maybe I even expected to see a photo with the private parts blacked out…but NO, I did not expect to see full frontal nudity. But like I say, this has become a complete and total trash publication.

  12. Georgia

    It is correct to say the university didn’t give a reason for firing the advisor. So you might logically ask the obvious next question: Why not? Because if it gave the reason, the university would get sued faster than you can say Ticonderoga. If you can even say Ticonderoga.

    Not giving a reason isn’t proof the university is acting in good faith. It’s just the opposite.

  13. No one really cares what happens in Greenville, N.C., anyway. It’s a podunk town and the school administration reflects it pretty well. This is a civil suit that could make its way through federal court. An adviser on a newspaper that is a public forum really has no responsibility except perhaps to make suggestions that do not have to be followed by students.

  14. Fred

    Why is the editor not being fired? Could they have told the story without showing his privates? Tell me why they had to show it.

    Does everybody know what privates look like or did we have to see them again?

  15. Big AL

    So let’s get this right: TEC runs a front page story on some moron who thought it would be funny to get naked and run across the field during the Military Appreciation Day events. No word on Military Appreciation Day but a naked moron rates a front page photo. How crass, how moronic, both the naked moron on the field and TEC for giving the guy attention. By the way, some of us do appreciate our military. As for the ability to use good judgement at TEC; we’d appreciate it if you would do so please. That’s all we ask for, a little good judgement. When I want to see naked morons I’ll watch the Jerry Springer Show. Just because you have a 1st Amendement right to be a moron doesn’t mean you have to excercise that right. Please; less tabloid trash and more professional news coverage of the University. I really do expect a little more from TEC.

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