Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

May 8, 2014

OUR VIEW: Campus newspapers are worth protecting

GLASGOW — It’s no secret that the past decade or so has been difficult on the newspaper business. The confluence of several factors – from the Internet to the nation’s overall economic downturn – forced many industries to adjust rapidly, and sometimes painfully, to a new era. In print media specifically, almost every outlet, including the Daily Times, has faced challenges.

No matter the financial environment, however, the practice of journalism remains a vital pursuit. The freedom to share information, to engage in public discourse and to seek truth is a basic tenet of American life. It is woven into our national identity – so much so that we sometimes take it for granted.

The economic concerns of professional newspapers are increasingly shared by college publications as well. For decades, many student publications proudly maintained their independence from the universities they cover by being largely self-sufficient, using advertising revenue to cover costs rather than relying on the school for funding. But as that has become more difficult to pull off, some newspapers have sought student fees or other forms of subsidies to keep the presses rolling.

The scenario isn’t perfect, because the question of who pulls the editorial strings becomes hard to answer. But, we believe, it’s better than having no publication at all.

This week, news came from Carbondale, Ill., that trustees at Southern Illinois University tabled a proposal for a $9-per-semester student fee that would keep the 98-year-old campus paper, the Daily Egyptian, afloat. Without the fee, the newspaper might have to print its final issue Friday, according to DE supporters. As of deadline Thursday, it was unknown whether a final decision had been made.

At a time when the cost of postsecondary education is soaring nationally, we understand the hesitation to dump extra fees upon students. That said, though, the fact that a prominent university such as SIU would seriously flirt with permanently shuttering its campus newspaper over $18 a year is disappointing. No matter what you believe about the future of the print industry as a business, America will always need journalists. Those journalists must hone their crafts somewhere, and there is no better place to start than in student media.

That’s why we hope the Daily Egyptian – and any other student newspapers facing potential closings – are shown support by their campuses and communities. The next generations of journalists will disseminate information in ways we can’t yet fathom. But unless we protect the craft now, there might not be future generations of journalists at all. And, frankly, that’s not what the First Amendment intended.

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