This editorial does not necessarily represent the views of any of the CU Independent’s sponsors. It does, however, represent the view of the entire CU Independent staff.
This editorial was also endorsed by the Rocky Mountain Collegian’s editorial board, the independent student newspaper at Colorado State University, in partnership for #SaveStudentNewsrooms day.
Correction: an earlier version of this article said the administration of Seattle University pulled copies of the student newspaper. It was a professor who was not acting on behalf of the school’s administration.
Last year, the higher education industry was valued at $463 billion. That’s 7 percent of the United States’ GDP — more than the pharmaceutical industry or the oil industry.
Despite higher education’s looming presence in American life, news coverage of it frequently falls through the cracks in many community newsrooms. Although the students that live in college towns might constitute a plurality of the population — CU students make up almost a third of Boulder — coverage of them is sparse.
Luckily, most universities have their own fourth estates. For the University of Colorado, it’s the CU Independent. The CUI is exclusively student-run. Since its inception, it’s brought light to injustices and malpractice on CU’s campus. It’s also been the eminent news source for CU athletics, music and arts scene, campus culture and events coverage.
In the last year alone, the CUI has kept both CU students and Boulder residents informed about active harmer incidents, wildfires, student government budget cuts and free speech protests. Features have uncovered shaky university diversity policies, poked through holes in the university’s mental healthcare system and given a voice to immigrants on campus.
Community newspapers like the Daily Camera — which is under the same corporate ownership decimating the Denver Post — simply lack the resources to cover the student population extensively. Recent newsroom cuts in newspapers as esteemed as the Post have demonstrated that, for a variety of reasons, times are tough in the journalism industry.
As newsrooms increasingly witness brutal personnel cuts, the CUI has been able to fill in the missing pieces. The CUI’s reporters have devoted stretches of their time to reporting on CU’s diversity policies, including parsing often-vague plans and uncovering sentiments that rest within CU’s student body. In many cases, the reportage has prompted action from the administration.
This is just one example of the work that the CUI is equipped, and excited, to do.
The old, overworn adage says that experience is the best teacher. And while cliche, it’s true. Most professional journalists will say that the most formative parts of their early careers were in their campus’ newsrooms, where they were free to experiment, ask questions, make mistakes and pursue their interests.
The importance of a campus paper really cannot be overstated. Yet nationally, student newsrooms are increasingly subject to threatening budget cuts, editorial oversight and diminishing numbers of staff. While the CUI has gained readership over the past few years, its newsroom size was halved in order to make room for faculty offices — an apt metaphor for the challenges it has faced in the past few years.
Funding challenges have forced some student newspapers, like The Daily Campus of the Southern Methodist University, to re-affiliate with their schools. This might mean diminished autonomy and oversight from universities. A professor of Seattle University pulled copies of the student-run Spectator because they disapproved of the cover photos of a university drag show. Funding cuts and censorship are just two of the many issues facing student newsrooms across the country.
At the CUI, we are all too aware of the accumulating set of existential threats. Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat might seduce the common university student with quick quips and anesthetizing memes, but despite this, there is still a population that desires well-researched, credible, resolute news. We want to give it to them.
At the CUI, we love producing the news for you. And we believe in the importance of what we do. We hope that you’ll support us, and newsrooms around the nation, as we bring awareness to our profession.
Contacnt CU Independent Head Opinion Editor Kim Habicht at email@example.com