Long live student newspapers
Student press facilitates important discussions.
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 12:04
Prioritization is a topic on the minds of many collegiate journalists lately, but everyone in academia should take notice.
Since this is our final issue of the Torch for the 2011-12 academic year, and my last as editor-in-chief, the importance of student newspapers seems an appropriate note to strike.
The classic, and obvious, argument is that student journalists need samples of published work in order to put themselves in a better position to find employment after graduation. But the function of a student newspaper is much more dynamic, and it can affect many more people than just those “know-it-all” J-School students.
Perhaps this view is subjective, but I like to think a student newspaper provides a public service. A university campus is a community, and beyond the sporadic coverage from some mainstream or local media outlets, it is a relatively closed community.
Aside from a university’s public relations department, a student newspaper is the only consistent source for university news. And unlike a university’s PR department, a student newspaper occasionally breaks those stories that a PR department wishes would simply disappear.
Besides, who knows more about the university than those people who work and thrive among it?
Students breathe life into student publications, and it seems that fewer and fewer students have the desire to see their words in print. Call it a selfish plea on my part for the halcyon days of student journalism or call it an existential crisis within academia, but student publications are becoming less and less a tool for student activism and input.
And just as students seemed to be less engaged, universities across the country seem to be following suit. Student publication budgets are being cut or simply eliminated. In 2010 the Elmhurst Leader lost all of its funding, despite strong showings at the Illinois Collegiate Press Associations yearly competitions. Similarly, the Columbia Chronicle, another ICPA juggernaut, will be turned into an exclusively online publication.
The combination of these factors leads to one thing: a diminished student voice.
With many issues relating to higher education becoming prominent in the current political discourse, student input and participation in that discourse is now more important than ever.
And while direct involvement in that process, such as SGA’s state-funded MAP grant lobby in Springfield , is a crucial element of the dialogue, student newspapers foster discussion within the university.
Those discussions need to be had. Stories on those subjects need to be written. And, perhaps most importantly, faculty need to encourage their students to get involved.
If not, students may realize, far too late, that the forums that once existed for such conversations have all but disappeared.