The Portland Spectator, Portland State’s magazine of conservative political commentary, is currently without an editor or writers. In fact, it doesn’t currently have a staff at all.
Brian Searles, who was appointed by PSU’s Publications Board as editor-in-chief last April, resigned this summer after most of his staff quit. The magazine, which usually prints monthly, has published just twice since April.
The Spectator’s struggle to continue publishing began last February when former Editor-in-Chief Joey Coon resigned for personal reasons. The two candidates vying to succeed Coon as editor were Searles and Shah Smith, the Spectator’s senior editor.
The Publications Board gave Searles, who had been an editorial writer for The Arizona Republic, the position, much to the chagrin of the rest of the staff.
“All of a sudden we were told who was going to be leading us,” Smith said.
The staff members who left after Searles’ appointment were mostly “folks that were loyal to Shah [Smith],” according to Student Publications Adviser Judson Randall. He added that nobody asked the board to reconsider its decision.
At press time, Searles was unavailable for comment.
At the root of the Spectator’s problems, Smith said, are disagreements about how the publication should be run. Smith believes that the editor should be chosen by the group and approved by the Student Publications Board. “We were confident that our status as a club would be recognized,” he said. “It was a dynamic that kept us publishing for two and a half years. It [the magazine] was a labor of love and loyalty and group since the beginning.”
“That is the biggest confusion that people have,” Randall said. “[The Spectator] is a publication, not a student group.”
The Student Publications Board, which consists of tenured faculty and students, oversees all of PSU’s publications, including the Vanguard, the Rearguard and the Portland Review. They are responsible for selecting the editors of these publications.
In response to the Spectator staff’s complaints that Searles had been appointed without their input, a public meeting was held last April and editor-in-chief hopefuls were asked to give a presentation about their plans for their respective publications. The candidates were then interviewed and chosen the following week.
“The board chose Brian Searles,” said Randall, who is not a voting member of the Publications Board.
The Spectator was first proposed in November of 2000 by founding Editor Napoleon Linardatos. Sponsorship was sought and obtained through the Collegiate Network, an organization supporting conservative college publications.
The position of editor-in-chief of the Spectator is now open to the public, and Smith plans to apply. If hired, he plans to increase the quality of the magazine’s writing, layout and design, as well as increase circulation. When asked how he plans to do all this, Smith replied, “with a talented staff and lots of ideas.”
Editor’s note: Judson Randall, the publications adviser at PSU, also advises the Vanguard.