Journalism is a notoriously hard career to enter. Recent graduates have experienced trouble finding jobs in the industry, even with high GPAs and strong extracurriculars. Meaningful experience at a college print newspaper is practically a prerequisite for aspiring journalists, as is the completion of several impressive journalism-related internships. So why does TSL receive so little institutional support from the 5Cs?
TSL‘s funding struggles are painful and well-documented. As a 5C club with almost 100 staff members from every undergraduate college in Claremont, it should receive roughly equal funding from each student government. But, with the exception of Pomona College and Scripps College, which each provide several thousand dollars a year, the 5Cs allot pitiful amounts of money to the paper.
For 2016–17, Claremont McKenna College gave $750, Harvey Mudd College $300, and Pitzer College an embarrassing $150. Pitzer’s pittance is $50 less than the school grants the 5C Women’s Roller Derby club which, while undoubtedly fun, is unlikely to launch anyone’s career.
The colleges’ failure to properly fund TSL is partially due to the paper’s past as a Pomona-only organization, funded entirely by Pomona. When TSL began reporting on 5C news and allowing students from all 5Cs to join in the mid-2000s, the other colleges were reluctant to begin paying for it. Consequently, in the weeks leading to 5C budget hearings, TSL is gripped with uncertainty. Members of senior staff, rather than focusing on the production of high-quality content, are forced to re-negotiate the club’s funding and justify the existence as a print paper.
At other schools, it’s understood that school newspapers are not necessarily profitable enterprises. Schools continue to fund them because they are valuable resources for their students. In 2014, the school paper at the University of Missouri at St. Louis was forgiven $40,000 in debt. At other schools, like the University of California: Irvine and the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, students pay a mandatory media fee each year to pay for the school paper’s printing costs. However, the 5Cs have not deemed TSL worthy of a designated yearly fee.
Instead, administrators continue to justify TSL‘s meager funding by pointing to the budgets of student papers at other liberal arts colleges. This comparison isn’t apt. TSL serves five liberal arts colleges–its budget should be larger than papers that serve only one.
Moreover, even some liberal arts colleges give their newspapers substantially higher budgets than TSL. Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college in Connecticut with an endowment far lower than Pomona’s, budgeted $30,000 for its student-run paper until 2015. When the paper ran an op-ed critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, Wesleyan’s student government voted to drastically cut its funding by more than half. The paper’s new budget? $13,000 – $1,800 more than TSL received last year from all five colleges combined.
The Student Life shouldn’t have to fight so hard for funding that papers at other colleges take for granted. In 2015, a decrease in TSL‘s labor budget, which is paid entirely by Pomona College, forced the paper to stop paying the vast majority of its staff. TSL‘s inability to pay students who devote hours to its production each week makes it difficult for low-income students to work there.
That’s a huge problem, considering that working at the paper is vital for students with journalistic ambitions, who need to provide published clips for job and internship applications. This is especially true for students who come to college without previous published work or connections in the media; these students will have difficulty getting pieces published in outlets other than a student newspaper.
In any case, TSL isn’t just for students who want to be journalists. Being on TSL staff provides students with experience in writing, editing, photography, graphic design, and illustrating. Even students who do not work for the newspaper benefit from its presence on campus; TSL has covered important stories that are neglected by other campus-focused media outlets, including in-depth investigations of the political leanings of 5C trustees and partnerships between the clinic program at Harvey Mudd College and the defense industry. The point of the paper is not to turn a profit, but to cover important campus stories and help students stay informed and develop valuable skills.
TSL should not have to beg every year from non-receptive student governments. The colleges’ various budget committees have an obligation to accept the necessity of TSL‘s presence on campus, resolve their disputes about funding amongst themselves, and allow student journalists to get on with their real jobs. Student journalism in Claremont has suffered enough from their failure to coordinate properly.
Kate Dolgenos PO ’17 is TSL‘s Opinions editor and a politics major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She wears better shoes than you.