In modern America, “fake news” seems to be the rallying cry of citizens on each side of the aisle. With distrust of mainstream media outlets so abundant, who can be relied on to provide the hard-hitting, factual coverage that Americans need to remain informed?
The answer is student media.
With no reliance on ratings, no monetary motivation to speak of and staffs comprised solely of dedicated and ambitious young journalists, there is no motivation for student-led media outlets to lead readers astray. Rather, the only motivation for providing a quality story is the sense of accomplishment provided to the journalist on informing the public of the relevant facts needed to make day-to-day decisions.
With the mainstream media’s obsession with ratings and profit, it’s hard to trust them. What was once the voice of a public watchdog concerned only with facts and those items that had major social, political and economic ramifications has instead become a collection of carbon copies of the same few talking heads. Gone are the days of public protection by the media. We now live in an era where the only entities that news networks are accountable to are those few corporations that own controlling stakes in them.
So who owns the student media? That would simply be the students. If The Crimson White were to publish an article rife with factual errors and inadequacies, there would be a rebellion on campus the likes of which are reserved for heretics. When the mainstream media does something similar, there are simply cries of “fake news” accompanied by a growing sense of resentment that seemingly cannot grow any larger. With a dedicated student-body following and a host of concerned faculty keeping student media from misleading campus, there is a system of checks and balances in place to assure readers of quality and integrity.
Not to mention, national outlets are often so distanced from the events that are happening on the ground that they tend to overshadow the work that has already been done by local and student journalists, while also running the risk of getting the facts wrong and don’t credit local journalists for giving them sources and other resources. A prime example of this unfolded with the breaking news about the University of Alabama School of Law’s feud with Hugh Culverhouse Jr. While outlets like The Washington Post were rushing to break the story, publish editorials and jump to conclusions that ended up not being 100% correct, the reporters of The Crimson White were digging, working, researching and fact-checking to make sure the story we did publish was airtight and complete. We may have not been first to break the story, but in the end, we were confidently able to stand by our thorough and accurate reporting.
Too often, the lack of checks and balances in the mainstream media shines through. Rather than reporting, the mainstream media have become focused on being the mouthpiece of those deemed “important” and those who drive up ratings. In addition to this, mainstream media outlets are often guilty of a sort of plagiarism wherein they overshadow the original coverage of a news piece by a smaller media outlet. As a local media outlet, The Crimson White is never at risk of becoming a mouthpiece of politicians attempting to push an agenda. No matter how hard we try, neither Speaker Pelosi nor President Trump will give us exclusives, and for the students of our campus, that is preferable. Such proximity to heavily biased individuals provides an inside look into the inner workings of the issues at hand, but it also kills any sort of objectivity a newspaper could possess.
Media always poses the risk of becoming a mere platform for ideas, rather than an entity that looks behind the curtains and dissects that which is beyond the eyes of concerned citizens. Accountability and distance, the two items that help prevent this issue, are the traits possessed by student media. Rather than becoming “the media,” a phrase we so unaffectionately reject, The Crimson White strives everyday to provide an unbiased glimpse into the world — a glimpse that is unattainable by the mainstream news, a glimpse that is unafraid of shrinking ratings, a glimpse that seeks to do only one thing: report the facts.