“Doane continues to threaten the organization that has become my home:” How budget cuts will kill student media at Doane University

As we outlined on Monday, the administration at Doane University plans to hit Doane Student Media (DSM) with a series of budget cuts that will likely kill student media on campus. University President Jacque Carter refuses to explain the cuts in any meaningful way, making only “refusals to comment,” according to the DSM’s coverage of the issue.

It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of life, especially when all of us are being asked to do so much with so little in such an “unprecedented” time. However, if there’s one thing I want you to hear it’s this quote from Meaghan Stout, the EIC of the Owl and Doaneline. She’s graduating in a month, isn’t going into journalism and could probably say, “Hey, not my problem.” However, this is what she wants you to know about her and the student media at Doane University:

“Doane Student Media means more to me than I could ever put into words. I do not feel right leaving after this month when Doane continues to threaten the organization that has become my home for the past two years and I will not leave it be until I know it’s safe.”

We asked you to email Carter to express your displeasure over this, so if it sounds like you want to do that, here is his email: jacque.carter@doane.edu and below is the rest of his information.

Also, if you think he might be too busy to be bothered by emails, here is the email for Ryan Mueksch, the university’s PR person: ryan.mueksch@doane.edu

If anyone doesn’t like to see random strangers paying attention to something potentially nefarious at their institutions and making noise about it, it’s the person whose job it is to keep the image shiny and pretty.

Meanwhile,  Stout wanted to let people know that she’s both stunned and grateful for any help people are providing.

“You have no idea how much it means to know that people are listening and seeing what is happening right now,” she said in an email interview over the weekend. “When I wrote the initial article, my hope was that the Doane community would stand for us but I never imagined anyone outside of that community would reach out.”

Stout has covered multiple stories for the publications on this topic and other important issues, including a recent look at Doane’s erroneous claim of copyright against a faculty-led website. She is a senior who graduates in a month with majors in Philosophy, Religious Studies, and International Studies and minors in Asian Studies and English.

She’s also working with a shortened budget and a skeleton crew, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Usually we have revenue from advertising through our paper and website, but local businesses are struggling as well and have shown little interest in us this year,” she said. “We currently have a total of one business that has placed an ad with us so far this year, despite our reach going up, especially on our website. The pandemic has hit many local businesses in our area, affecting their ability to afford advertising which then affects our ability to stay afloat with our minuscule budget from Doane.

“We have had issues with students showing interest in working for student media because of the stress of the shortened semester and classes as well, leaving us consistently short staffed. Many of the staff I hired on before the summer decided not to come back to Doane at all. We have yet to have a complete staff this entire semester but we have gotten the paper done before deadline and out every single week.”

Retired faculty member and former media adviser David Swartzlander said the work of the students is admirable and he worries that the next generation of students at Doane won’t get the same opportunities if these cuts go through.

“It saddens me,” he said. “Look, I have a lot of good memories of students. So many of them have gone on to be successful in journalism or media. I will treasure knowing and working with those students and hoping that, in some small way, I helped them become successful. It saddens me that future students won’t get those opportunities. Journalism is all experiential learning.”

Stout said her staff is keeping the faith and pushing forward with their work in student media, all while hoping to fend off the cuts that are proposed to DSM.

“While our staff may be lacking in numbers, there is no lack of passion and commitment to getting news to the Doane community,” Stout said. “We have been working to keep traditions in tact, altering them to fit our new circumstances, which I believe has helped us stay motivated. It has definitely been a difficult time for everyone on the staff but we are doing our best to make the most of it. As soon as I told the staff about the proposed budget cuts, though, it seemed to light the fire of passion within us all again.”

In looking at Stout’s situation, the passion she and her staff have for student media almost seems antithetical. She’s graduating in a month, she’s not a journalism major, the pandemic is kicking the paper’s keester and everyone on Earth it seems is burnt to a crisp. Why is this publication at a university that’s smaller than a lot of high schools in Crete, Nebraska so important?

“First and foremost, college is about experience and education,” Stout said. “For students interested in communications, student media is a gold mine. They receive real, hands-on experience of giving interviews, communicating effectively, writing objectively and without bias, as well as how to work with deadlines. They learn how to push themselves out of their comfort zone, how to decipher fact from fiction. Even if a student isn’t going to go into journalism after college, they are only going to benefit from working in a real newsroom. Learning in a classroom is not a substitute for student media.”

In addition, Stout said student media publications have value to students and members of the university community who have no interest in ever stepping foot into a newsroom.

“Students pay a lot of money to earn a college degree, regardless of what school they go to,” she said. “They deserve to have unbiased information on the institution they are paying. For example, the Doane administration has a ‘news’ source that they send out to students, staff and faculty called The Doane Shield. The emails we receive don’t contain news. It’s a glorified puff piece on why Doane is ‘so great.’ The only news it contains is centered on successful alumni. This sad attempt at replacing student media has only made it more clear to me how much we need student media.”

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