Opinions

Save Student Newsrooms: If You Want High-Quality Journalism, Fund It

Members of The Student Life staff toured the Los Angeles Times newsroom in February. (Courtesy of Darrell Kunitomi)

 

Today, college newspapers across the nation participated in #SaveStudentNewsrooms, an effort to bring attention to drastically underfunded college media. We're here to add our voices to the call for financial support.

Student news organizations are essential because they provide in-depth coverage of local issues that affect college students on campuses. No other publications feature student voices, publicize events, and investigate wrongdoings on campus as methodically as college journalists. In the past year alone, TSL articles have impacted students lives and prompted administrations to agree to new policies:

            • Last spring, TSL published a leaked report that the Harvey Mudd College administration had been keeping secret from students, detailing how the school's excessive workload left students mentally and physically exhausted. Furious students protested, rallied, and staged sit-ins, prompting the administration to issue a public apology, cancel two days of class, and pledge more funds to mental health and student organizations.

            • In March, our investigation into the ways Pitzer College Student Senate has spent its money and its failure to adequately track expenses – making abuse of power possible – raised awareness across Pitzer, and caused the incoming executive board to promise more accountability and transparency.

            • Last fall, we wrote several stories and produced a video about the experiences of Scripps College first-years forced to live off-campus in apartments at Claremont Graduate University because Scripps enrolled too many people. Though some were able to make it a home, many said that they felt isolated and cut off from the community. This semester, Scripps pledged no student would be forced to live at CGU in the fall.

            • Also last year, a TSL editor penned a column explaining why she was transferring from Scripps; she felt the school didn't have enough spaces for students to come together and build community. Specifically, she questioned why Scripps doesn't open up its classrooms after-hours like other 5Cs. This semester, Scripps opened four classrooms to students to do work in.

Despite the impact our writers have made and the hours they put into their work, they're unpaid. So are our photographers, graphic artists, and business associates. Our section editors make the equivalent of $1.60 per hour. Not $11.60. A dollar sixty. And they often put in more than 20 hours per week, including eight or nine hours during weekly production nights alone.

Our labor budget comes from the administration, which would not be ideal even if we were paid like millionaires. And our production budget, which mostly goes toward printing, comes from the same student senates that we routinely critique and investigate. Journalists need to be financially independent and unaffiliated with the communities they cover, but we can't afford to. No amount of funding threats would stop us from publishing the news people need to know, but what if we lose our ability to pay to print? The past two years, we've only been able to continue printing the oldest student newspaper in Southern California thanks to an anonymous donation.

How can we ask or expect anyone to work essentially for free? It certainly hinders our ability to build a socioeconomically diverse newsroom, and it's heartbreaking to hear from reporters that they love journalism, but have to quit our staff because they need to find a job that pays.

There's no solution in sight. Some college newspapers have been able to get a student media fee passed, so all students pay for local journalism on their campus. But here at The Claremont Colleges, we have five different schools to contend with, and five Boards of Trustees that would have to approve such a change.

As we continue to search for ways to survive and print, while still producing high-quality, impactful content, we need your help. If you believe that journalism matters, especially on college campuses, please donate to The Student Life. Your money will go directly toward ensuring we're able to continue serving our community.

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