Why Won't 5C Governments Support Student Journalism?

It’s that time of year again. If you’re the leader of a club or organization on campus, you’ve likely spent the last few weeks asking for money from student governments for the coming year. TSL is no exception.

However, what distinguishes TSL from other organizations is the incredibly vital role at the Claremont Colleges. Having a consistent, critical, and ethical paper contributes to the colleges’ legitimacy, keeping us on par with every other competitive college in the nation and simultaneously keeping alive a journalism program, all while holding the administrations accountable to their informed study bodies.

For TSL, printing physical copies of the paper amplifies the goals of teaching ethical journalism and promoting truthful reporting. It’s easier to have questionable journalistic standards when your words can be edited on a website at any time--you're held accountable in print.

More so, printing creates jobs. For students interested in journalism, TSL is one of the few opportunities to get paid experience that is relevant to the workforce. For TSL’s layout designers, their jobs are entirely dependent on printing.

Ceasing to print would cause students to lose their jobs and access to crucial work experience—simple as that. Investing in printing is investing in student work.

Yet the arguments against printing pervade. In an article called “Why We Print,TSL’s Editorial Board wrote that TSL has been underfunded for the past few years, causing the staff to frantically look for money instead of focusing on reporting. However, a lack of knowledge about print journalism and a misguided set of priorities seem to limit student government generosity across the 5Cs.

A major concern of student governments is whether or not printing aligns with their strong stances about environmental sustainability. But when people arbitrarily attempt to apply this value to printing the newspaper, they severely miss the mark. Sustainability aims to reduce waste and the unnecessary use of replaceable materials that harm the environment. Switching cacti for roses, or glass for plastic makes sense, but there is no replacement for the value of print journalism.

The newspaper is printed on post-consumer materials. This means that when you recycle your 700 pages of politics reading at the end of the semester, they go through a process and end up becoming next semester’s TSL. This is arguably a more environmentally responsible process than the loads of waste we create after every major party or event that student governments happily fund.

Deeming the print issue unnecessary or replaceable does not address the aforementioned impact it has on campus. Numerous people stumble over the paper in ways they could never stumble over online articles—staff, students, faculty, and visitors alike. Cutting funding to TSL just because the print issue is on paper simply doesn’t make sense.

Now, let’s pretend that the environmental sustainability argument holds water and that the student governments really are concerned about the environment. Where is the funding to help TSL develop other options, then? If the concern is real, the investment needs to be made in journalism.

An increased web presence requires an increased monetary contribution to things like cameras, trainings and software updates. Moving away from printing doesn’t mean that schools get to ignore their obligation, but instead that they should be stepping up their game to aid in the transition.

I’m perplexed and appalled by the lack of support the schools have given the paper in the recent years, especially with the rise in predatory reporting from the Claremont Independent. The duty to fight against inflammatory, racist, and sensational ‘journalism’ needs to be shared by all the colleges.

People of color across these campuses are consistently at risk of being targeted by the Claremont Independent, and one of the most tangible actions schools can do about it is to fund TSL in order promote truthful, ethical journalism.

I understand the merit of funding 5C organizations proportionately to a college’s participation. Why should  some student governments have to contribute to something if almost none of their students (like Harvey Mudd, for instance) participate? However, this logic cannot be applied to something as universal and far reaching as TSL.

Mudd, for instance, has seen a cultural shift begin to happen in large part assisted by TSL’s publication of the leaked Wabash Report. TSL coverage is not perfect, and it is hard to understand what happens at other colleges if students from those colleges aren't in the room, but still, TSL’s staff has always put in a concerted effort to hold all the colleges accountable.

Rally your student senates and governments to demand that they support the institutions that affect you. Tell them that you care about and are invested in TSL. Let them know if you pick up physical copies. Scripps students can fill out a poll here, asking about viewership. Pomona students can do the same here. TSL is there to represent and support you, and now they need your support.

Simone Bishara is a third-year at Pitzer College studying Sociology. She hopes to one day pursue a career in juvenile justice.