On February 14, I wrote about Boston University in sympathy for the ending of its print edition of “The Daily Free Press.” Today, I publish in honor of all student-run newsrooms who helped spark a national interest in saving them.
It's #SaveStudentNewsrooms day and newsrooms across the country are joining in on a campaign “to educate people about the challenges facing student-run newsrooms.” And we're all in.
What are those challenges? We've gone from five days a week to one day a week in the span of two years. Our advertisers are disappearing, our budget is shrinking and we don't have the funds to keep our tech up-to-date to keep up with the rapidly changing media landscape.
But, it could be worse, right? We are here in solidarity with student newsrooms that can't pay their staff. That can't recruit a staff. That work tireless hours for little to no recognition. That juggle class work with campus media work with work work just to make ends meet.
Okay, most of us do that last part too. But, we’re still so fortunate to be on this campus.
Most of the time, we’re recognized for our failures, which is pretty okay seeing as we’re practically running a business out of the com building with little to no “adult” supervision. We’re 100% going to make a mistake at least once a week, but we'd rather learn from our failures than only have success. That doesn't teach you anything about this business- you'll make more mistakes in the field than you would ever know. Our journalists will know that.
Journalists across the nation will know that because student-run newsrooms are teaching it.
Student-run newsrooms are under-appreciated by those funding us, especially as the once glorious “editorially independent student newspaper” title is leading to a broke piggy bank. But many don't realize we aren't just kids down in a basement with too much power printing whatever we want to be boasted across campus. We're learning, growing and making mistakes, all to make us more prepared for the field ahead.
It’s what we need.
I'll give an example. During the summer 2018, I worked as a features intern for the Knoxville News Sentinel and thank the Lord for the Daily Beacon because I got a little bit of intro, a story and it was off to the races. Without the Daily Beacon, I would have had no idea how that newsroom was running. Without the Daily Beacon, I would have no idea what they were looking for.
You can't jump from degree to field in journalism- you must get the hands-on practice.
That's why we want to stay around and want other newsrooms to stay around. Myself, along with each of my editors, have taken on leadership roles that have not only helped us grow as leaders and professionals, but as teachers. We have taught over 100 students this year, to help them learn what professional journalism should look like and offer them hands-on experience to get better.
And they've gotten better.
You want journalists to get better, right? This generation will shape the future of a media landscape that’s becoming more and more polarized by the day, creating an us vs. them. We’re trying so desperately to teach media literacy and unbiased reporting. (It’s not like super, duper easy, fun fact).
But, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Daily Beacon cannot be the only student newsroom providing this hands-on experience. UT boasts other media outlets such as The Volunteer Channel, Tennessee Journalist, Honey magazine, Lumos video production, the Phoenix literary magazine.
We are lucky.
Not all are.
We don't just want your support, we NEED your support. By saving student newsrooms, we are saving more than just a print edition, more than just a university department, more than an extra-curricular. You're saving something just as important as being in the classroom.
Thank you, supporters, who are tirelessly working alongside us to make sure that this standing tradition doesn’t die at UT. Join us in also supporting those who are tirelessly working to ensure these traditions don’t die elsewhere and empowering students to take learning into their own hands.
Today, I encourage you to donate to the Office of Student Media, or to go one step further and donate to a student newsroom in much greater need than the Daily Beacon.
Or, don’t let a monetary number determine your support. Call, email, text, DM your local student-run newsroom and let them know you’re supporting them, rooting for them.
We’re all in this together.
This letter has been edited to say "The Daily Free Press" is a publication of Boston University, not Boston College.