Two necessary components are key to any student-run newspaper, independence and financial-stability. Lately, The Leader, among other student-run publications, find it necessary to surface the importance of independence in student publications since that notion seems to need reiterating.
Back in early April, The Daily Campus, an independent newspaper at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, announced it had voted to dissolve and forfeit it’s independent status due to financial insecurity.
It was the dissolving of The Daily Campus that sparked over 100 student newspapers across the country to join the movement that highlights the importance of student newsrooms under the hashtag #SaveStudentNewsrooms.
Having a unique perspective on such a movement, The Leader stands firmly behind it, acknowledging the crucial need for financial and editorial independence of student newspapers.
As any careful reader has already figured out, The Leader is not independent.
It has long been a begrudging fact that The Leader’s funding comes from SGA by way of the fee allocation board that disperses funds to each student organization on campus. For most clubs this is a non-issue, as long as they get their money why should they care?
But for The Leader this is a large source of ethical conflict, given it is the very organization that is supposed to watch the student government like a hawk to report its shortcomings and successes.
How can we effectively do that when the student government has the key to our financial freedom? SGA could at any point arbitrarily withhold crucial funds from The Leader if they do not like a story, editorial, or even an individual.
It was less than 10 years ago when this very fear actually came true, and an eviction notice was slipped under The Leader’s door indicating that it had 24 hours to leave campus. Rather than call it quits, the editorial board that year elected to continue printing without the support of SGA’s funds, an effort that earned them a standing ovation at that year’s Illinois College Press Awards.
Luckily, this editorial board has not had to deal with the threat of funding being withheld, but the fact that the possibility even exists highlights the need for independence in newsrooms in Elmhurst and across the nation.
Journalism is a field that is quickly changing in the 21st century, with the rapid rise of digital media and plummeting sales of newspapers weighing heavily on both student newsrooms and professional ones. In this age where many people get their news from social media, it can become easy for some to dismiss the importance of journalism, especially at the collegiate level.
However, it takes little more than a peak underneath the surface to see why the role of journalism is just as strong today as it ever has been.
Whether you get your news from television news stations like CNN or FOX, or from simply scrolling down your Twitter and Facebook feeds, you are consuming the repackaged work of journalists. These newly popularized news sources rely heavily on the work of boots-on-the-ground journalists, many of whom got their start in student newsrooms.
We need to foster an environment that gives young, aspiring journalists the platform to hone their craft, because their craft is crucial to public discourse.
Journalists need financial freedom, journalists need the ability to be uncensored, journalists need the freedom to report on the stories that have to be told, journalists need to be independent.