In light of the student newspapers across the country who face closure and censorship, Melissa Gomez, Editor-in-Chief of Florida State University’s The Independent Florida Alligator, proclaimed a Save Student Newsrooms Day campaign today to raise awareness of the role for student newsrooms and to support for student journalism.
Earlier this month, Student Media Company, a student-run publishing company at Southern Methodist University in Texas, announced that it would have to close its doors after 90 years as an independent organization due to funding cuts. The publishing company will cease print of both its paper and annual yearbook and merge with the school’s journalism department.
Multiple student newspapers, including The Central Florida Future, Boston University’s The Daily Press and several other colleges, universities and high school publications face similar threats of closure or have already closed.
“The whole idea behind the call to action day was to start a conversation about the state of student media in the US,” Gomez told CNN. “Some people who may be removed from the university and or their publication may not realize that student newsrooms don’t look like they did 20 years ago. Some of them have folded. Some of them are struggling to survive the next month. Others don’t really have a secured future. And we want people to be aware of that.”
Gomez said she encourages student newspapers to promote themselves through fundraisers, editorials, tours of their newsrooms and by educating the public on the history of their publications and their impact on campus.
The University of Connecticut’s The Daily Campus, a student-run newspaper founded in 1896, is now 122 years old. Undergoing several transformations since its conception, The Daily Campus is currently the largest college paper in the state of Connecticut and the third-largest in the New England region, according to the UConn library.
Over many years of service, the paper has acquired a multitude of notable alumni. Staff members of The UConn Daily Campus have gone on to work for professional publications such as The Willimantic Chronicle, The Connecticut Mirror, The Hartford Courant and Marvel Comics, as well as a variety of other professional positions.
Maureen Croteau, head of UConn’s Journalism Department, wrote for The Daily Campus herself in the 1960s at the height of anti-Vietnam War involvement sentiment, and watches journalism students develop their skills at the newspaper and other student media organizations.
“We’ve had a lot of students who were active at the [UConn] Daily Campus who went on to have very successful journalism careers,” Croteau said. “It definitely has an impact.”
Computer programmer Peter Charpentier said he used the “immediate feedback” of student newspapers, specifically UConn’s Daily Campus, to experiment with editorial cartooning during the early-1970s. Although he did not pursue a career in cartooning, Charpentier attributes his current career to the artistic skills he gained while working at the student newspaper.
“The humanities were always very important to me and The [UConn] Daily Campus was a really good outlet for that for me,” Charpentier said. “You draw something and then it’s out there and you get immediate feedback. Fortunately, I did find my real talent and that was computer programming, but I still always focus on the importance of the visual aspect of a program. I can’t quite draw as well anymore, but I can’t help myself from doodling during meetings.”
Charpentier said working for a student newspaper provided him with friends and colleagues in a fraternal environment where he could spend his time enjoying the “journalistic tradition” of print news.
“The [UConn] Daily Campus was a sanctuary; whenever I felt like it I could drop in and help out with whatever was going on,” Charpentier said. “The Daily Campus gave me an instant almost fraternity or family-like environment, but it was a group that I was immediately accepted into where I met interesting and hard working people. We had a lot of fun together.”
Though the UConn Daily Campus has published controversial stories in the past criticizing the UConn administration, the university stands behind the paper and its independent status, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.
“Student-run media plays an important role at UConn, with The Daily Campus in particular providing a regular news source to our wide population of students, faculty and staff, visitors and others in the region,” Reitz said. “As a veteran myself of a daily student newspaper at college, I can attest to their value as a place for reporters, editors, photographers and other students to hone their craft as they prepare for careers after college.”
Though the role of The UConn Daily Campus has changed over the past century, its impact on the university cannot be overlooked, Croteau said.
“I can’t imagine what would have happened if there had never been a newspaper on campus,” Croteau said. “The [UConn] Daily Campus was here when the National Guard was called on campus to quell student protest [in the 60s]. The [UConn] Daily Campus has been here through all the spring weekends. They have been here to celebrate new construction and new majors and new fields of study. They have been here to mark the low points and let us come together a community.”
Overall, student newspapers are critical for both training future journalists and in giving the students a voice on campus, Croteau said.
“The need for journalism is needed more than ever,” Croteau said. “Students need a voice. There are lots of opportunities to raise their voice in dissent, [and] one of the ways… is through the paper. I can’t imagine a UConn without a student newspaper.”
Collin Sitz contributed to the reporting for this article.
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.
Andrew Miano is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.