Editorial: #SaveStudentNewsrooms, because student press matters
On college campuses, true, unembellished accounts of university affairs can be difficult to come by. The marketing teams do their finest to inflate the good and suppress the bad, filtering the flow of information and leaving the less appetizing portions untouched. They paint a beautiful self-portrait of the university, a utopian hub of smiles and learning, pushing rat torture and hate crimes to the side. Of course, this is their job, and they’re good at it. Really good.
But, if you have any concern for the truth, you might be troubled, and may be prompted to reflect on the importance of your student newspaper for the first time. Specifically, think about the word “independent” in The Review’s subtitle, “the University of Delaware’s independent student newspaper.” It’s an important word, meaning we’re not dependent on anyone or anything — that we have freedom to publish the truth without fear. Well, sort of.
The sad reality is that independent student newspapers, like all newspapers and other businesses, are dependent on the market. They depend not only on readership, but advertisements and donations, and the market is no merciful god. This reality has struck hard recently, as The Daily Campus, Southern Methodist University’s previously independent newspaper, has been forced to re-affiliate with Southern Methodist University due to funding difficulties.
In other words, The Daily Campus has been compelled into censorship. Fears of losing funding will haunt the publication of every controversial article, imposing a self-regulation on student journalists and compromising the very essence of journalism. The truth, already in a precarious predicament, will be increasingly inaccessible, filtered by fears of bankruptcy.
Consider some unflattering content that The Review has published recently. We’ve exposed emotionally abusive volleyball coaches, publicized the curious legal status of a top donor and trustee (when few others seemed willing to), told the stories of students burdened by tuition increases and satirized our university’s president. Week after week, we appear on this editorial page, defending your rights as students and advocating on your behalf. We publish your subversive op-eds and firmly believe in empowering students.
If the university had a grip on our finances, we can assure you that this would not be the case.
Independent status matters, not just for us but for you, if justice and truth on this campus matter at all. But it comes at a cost. From the New York Times to The Review, traditional sources of funding, such as advertisement revenue or subscription payments, have become increasingly unprofitable and unsecure, and old financial models have grown obsolete.
Due to these financial constraints, even the most reputable publications turn to clickbait production, desperately working to turn a profit. Reporting jobs have been slashed everywhere, and newspapers are increasingly forced to play the market, often at the expense of quality and investigative reporting.
Yet, the duty to inform the public has simultaneously grown more crucial than ever, and the role of student newsrooms has become equally crucial. We don’t have to chase money or cut reporters, and we don’t have to race to stories out first for the sake of money. But we do need enough to get by — to distribute your papers (in color) each week, to keep our website up to standard, to keep you informed.
We, and all other college newsrooms, need you. We need your support and readership, and we need you to believe it’s worth it. It is, and college newspapers across the country prove it every week, even if 95 percent of the student body doesn’t notice. It’s with your help that we prepare the next era of truth-tellers, which requires independent newsrooms, the ability to think and write critically and freely and tell the stories that need to be told. You can donate (not just to us but any student newspaper), you can spread the hashtag and you can help ensure that justice and truth prevail on your campuses.