The Importance of Independent College Journalism

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 / 8:26 PM

The student editorial staff of the University of Georgia's campus newspaper, The Red & Black, resigned Wednesday evening in protest of the board of director's decision to name a non-student employee as the paper's editorial director. Ed Morales, who was formerly the paper's editorial adviser, was granted complete editorial control of The Red & Black, a move that led students to walk out and tell their story elsewhere.

As a former editor of a campus newspaper, this news hit home: for two-and-a-half wonderful years, I had the privilege and the honor to be a part of the New University during my time at UC Irvine. I began as a Layout intern, transitioned into a staff member and writer, and served as the paper's Managing Editor for a year and a half. The experience and the skills I gained at the New U, along with my involvement in UCI's alternative media publications, ranged from editorial to management, and I was fortunate to have the guidance and support of amazing mentors and veteran journalists.

The biggest challenge was the struggle to define ourselves to some in the community who did not understand the leadership and the history of the New U. We were a campus paper that, yes, was once funded and fueled by the power of the university and of the student government, but had since broken off. The New U remains today, as it has for decades, an independent and entirely student-run publication.

There were many stories in my time at the New U that led to controversy. There were stories that upset the administration and stories that upset various groups of students on campus. While managing the paper, I cannot think of a week that went by quietly. Our primary goal was never to incite unnecessary anger, but we did work to shed light on various aspects of campus life that needed attention: from safety violations to shutdowns of protests to shitty service at the campus Starbucks.

I can safely and confidently say that there was never a moment in which I or any of my fellow editors were told by anyone in the university that we could not publish a story. The university respected our independence (our funding came entirely from advertisements), whether they approved of what we were doing or not--and, yes, there were times when they did not approve.

Independent college journalism is vital to any campus community. To hear that a campus newspaper was taken over is a shame and, in my opinion, a violation of an important freedom. A student paper should be run by students. A newspaper for students that is controlled by non-students is not a campus newspaper anymore; it is a propaganda tool, a newsletter to promote an agenda while at the same time silencing the stories that are deemed unfavorable.

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  1. Wow. Kudos to those students for standing firm and walking out!