By Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief
Just last week the Free Press joined in on the movement, #SaveStudentNewsrooms, a group of college newspapers across the country have banded together to spread awareness about the need for financial and editorial independence for student-run publications.
Melissa Gomez, the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator, who worked with other students to create this movement, contacted the Free Press about this movement. The announcement of this campaign came at a time when the financial status of the Free Press was not clear. The Student Senate had voted in favor of a proposal to disband the organization as a 501(c)(3) at a meeting in late March. However, parliamentary procedures were not followed for this vote, so it was redone at their most recent meeting on April 20. After a long discussion, the Student Senate voted to table the vote for this proposal until the fall.
As a student journalist, I felt the need to jump at this opportunity to join others in this cause. College newspapers across the country have been facing a threat to their independence.
Most notably, an instance that compelled Gomez to start the movement was when news broke about the Daily Campus, the student newspaper from the Southern Methodist University in Texas, was being absorbed into the journalism department and the paper would no longer publish. Dallas Morning News reported on this in early April. They spoke to Kylie Madry, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Campus, who said that the future of their paper looks bleak. Madry stated that their last hope was to get a large donation to help keep the paper running.
Gomez recognized that there was a general need for people to be more aware about the importance of student newspapers. There is now a Facebook group for student journalists from across the country, to come together to show why college newspapers are invaluable, and that they cannot perform their duties without complete independence.
Student journalists are the future news reporters of the country. There’s no better platform to learn about this career than to join a student-run publication. News is something that will always remain, whether it be in print or online, and it’s the current students who will be the ones to provide you the news.
College newspapers are also unique in the fact that we have access and insight to a university that no other publication has. Since college newspapers have a focus on their university and the surrounding community, we get the chance to provide a more in-depth coverage about our institution. Local publications may cover college activities, but it is the college newspaper that is the expert on the student body. What’s also unique here is that we are all students ourselves, and what better way to represent a university than to have these articles written by the students themselves.
Journalists are facing a tough environment in this day and age, with the frequent mention of “fake news.” We must train those going into this field, to be prepared to handle an extremely challenging job. A student newspaper is the perfect starting point for those with an interest in journalism. It gives them their first real experience, better preparing them for a future career.
With this being said, college newspapers are facing tough times ahead. It continues to be a struggle to recruit advertisers for our print publication, as most news is digital. Plus, a sad truth is that most college students that I know outside of the paper, never pick up a copy of the Free Press. What they don’t realize is that we exist for the students and the university community.
Student-run newspapers all across the country are facing these problems. So as a part of the #SaveStudentNewsrooms movement, independent college newspapers are asking for donations from outside organizations or individuals. These donations will help fund the invaluable experience a college newspaper can give students. If any of you would like to support the Free Press, and our work in serving our community, we have a donations page set up with GoFundMe, which you can also find a link to on our Facebook.
I am not alone in my view of the importance of student journalism, and I encourage all of you reading this to read the other editorials published by students across the country. These students are the future of news in this country. For a platform to read the editorials, visit: savestudentnewsrooms.com.