Our View: It’s vital that college media remains independent

CW Editorial Board

College journalism has always held an important place within the university experience. College newspapers and online publications connect us; they make large, somewhat disjointed universities feel like a cohesive whole. They give students a place to read about and discuss issues that are important to them that often would be ignored by larger, regional publications.

Most importantly, though, college newspapers are dedicated to actually being a voice for students on campuses often totally dominated by administration. They can criticize the powers that be within the university system and draw attention to problems that administration may want to sweep under the rug.

This is why it is critical that student newspapers around the country remain independent and do not come under the ownership of their related universities and colleges. If the universities were to actually own these papers, they could control the content that is published, all but ensuring that the administration would not be criticized and that public relations scandals would not be reported on.

Many people not explicitly involved in college journalism may not understand the distinction between student newspapers and the universities with which they are affiliated. However, the separation of the two is incredibly important. Independent student newspapers are not financially beholden to their universities, and they receive most of their funding through advertisement revenue and donations.

However, the field of journalism has faced many difficulties in the past years as revenue made from advertisements has continued to drop and donations have dried up. Many student newspapers have folded, and even more face uncertain futures as their budgets continue to dwindle.

The answer is not for college publications to receive full funding through their universities. Student newspapers must remain independent to ensure total control over what they investigate and publish.

To elucidate this problem for University of Alabama students, imagine that UA’s administration now fully funds The Crimson White, and therefore can control what is published. Next election season, the Machine participates in egregious election fraud, bribing different Greek houses to vote for their candidates. The Crimson White gets a source willing to talk, and is all set to publish an expose on the nefarious practices of the Machine.

But then, the University decides they are tired of the headache of the Machine and the bad press it causes. They say that the story cannot be published, and that the results of the election will stand with no further investigation. They have the power to do this. If they fund the paper, they essentially are the paper.

Though this is an extreme example, it is well within the realm of possibility of what could happen if The Crimson White does not remain editorially independent.

That is why today, the Crimson White Editorial Board stands with student newspapers all across the country to #SaveStudentNewsrooms. College students deserve independent publications on which they can rely to provide them with the truth, holding up a candle to large institutions that affect so much of their lives.

Consider donating to your college publication. Pick up copies and browse the websites so that advertisers are more willing to spend the money for ad space. Do what you can to ensure that campus democracy does not die in darkness.

Our View represents the consensus of the CW Editorial Board.