Editorial: Student newspapers must remain independent

(Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

After almost 90 years of existence, the Daily Campus over at the Southern Methodist University will no longer remain independent of the university because of funding concerns. Starting in May, the student media company that publishes the Daily Campus will close its doors and the newspaper will move over to SMU’s journalism department. The SMU Daily Campus is just one of many student newspapers across the country that has moved under the control of the university in recent years.

Today, this newspaper is joining hundreds of other student newspapers across the country as a part of Support Student Journalism Day in order to #SaveStudentNewsrooms and express the need for independent student newspapers.

Here at UConn, the Daily Campus is able to remain independent from the university because of the student activity fee. That fee allows the Daily Campus to operate its own budget and use its funding to best serve the student body without overreach from the university. That is not to say that the UConn has not tried to control the Daily Campus’s decision making. Three years ago, the UConn administration threatened to pull funding from the Daily Campus if we did not remove our non-student advisors from voting positions on our board. The decision to comply with the university’s threat has left the Daily Campus completely student-run without faculty and community advisors, but has allowed the Daily Campus to remain editorially independent.

That independence has allowed the Daily Campus to remain a watchdog group on campus. We have been able to fully report and critique decisions made by the university. Overall the Daily Campus has been able to give an unbiased picture to students of what is actually happening at UConn.

That is why independent student newspapers are so important. There is a chance that student newspapers run by a journalism department will be able to remain unbiased. Eventually, however, a story will come out that will put unwanted pressure to the university and the university will push back.  This can lead to censoring and threats of job security. Additionally, as our own reporters, photographers, copy editors, designers and editors can point out, there is no real experience like working at a fully functioning newspaper. A class just doesn’t do the trick.

At the end of the day, the goal of student newspapers is to provide unbiased reporting to students and give a real picture of what is actually going at a school. Universities and student bodies need to prioritize protecting this important freedom. If we don’t stand up for freedom and the truth, who will?