The press has always played a significant part in American society. Whether it was when our founding fathers called for freedom of speech or President Trump’s condemnations of liberal news outlets as “fake news,” the importance of news outlets has never wavered. Similarly, college newspapers should have an equally secure role on campuses. However, recently, student newspapers are facing ever-growing challenges that have forced them to either shut down or reaffiliate with their university. Reaffiliation not only takes away valuable independence from students, but it also reduces the integrity of the news and reporting that comes from the publication.
University campuses are microcosms of the real world, and what would the real world be like without the media? An uninformed mess. Or, at least, more of an uninformed mess. Student-run publications provide a platform for students to voice their concerns about the school as well as shed light on the issues that may or may not plague their campus.The paper provides an environment in which students can express their opinions and learn about their campus without fear of being shut down or shunned by the university. However, as more and more campus papers lose funding, the voice of the students becomes weaker.
Additionally, a student paper that is funded by its university has a conflict of interest. How are student journalists supposed to criticize the organization that is funding them? Independence from their corresponding university allows student papers to objectively look at the decisions of the university, much like independence from the government allows media outlets such as The New York Times or The Washington Post to judge the actions of our government. We all know that the University of Michigan has had issues in the past with addressing their actions and decisions and had the Daily not been an independent student organization, these problems might have been ignored and students would not be able to voice their anxieties about the University. Without student criticism and curiosity, how is a college campus supposed to improve?
The University of Michigan is not a campus free from scandal. In just the past year, we have had racist messages plague both campus landmarks and our residence halls while the University does little in the way of clear action towards change. The Michigan in Color section, MiC, provides a place where students can discuss campus climate and call out the University for surface-level solutions and actions. The paper is a place where students can find support and information about the more-suspicious behavior of their school.
The importance of independent college newspapers isn’t in just content, though. Students create a tight-knit community when they hold the sole responsibility of representing their organization; there is no parental figure in the university looming over their heads, threatening a “grounding” of sorts should things go wrong. The unique experience that comes from this autonomy should be something that students and alumni alike should work to give their peers and future generations.
College newspapers are also another way to help students feel comfortable on campus, and with more shutting down, there are fewer spaces where new people can find their way. My first year on the Daily, I met interesting people with diverse opinions and experiences in our Editboard. I learned how to move past the discomfort of having someone else read my writing. The Daily created a space where I could learn about the goings-on at our university in an accurate and objective way, without having to sift through the nonsense of Twitter and Facebook groups.
It should be no question that student newspapers are important parts of universities. They’re needed to not only maintain but also create conversation surrounding issues on campus. Saving student newsrooms is a pivotal movement that we should all care about and support. If you want to learn more and read about other universities, check out the movement at savestudentnewsrooms.com.
If you're interested in supporting student publications and helping the Michigan Daily maintain its independence, there are opportunities to do so here.