The Board of Trustees at Doane University approved of President Jacque Carter’s suggested cuts and mergers during its Monday meeting, meaning that Doane Student Media is on a downward spiral to financial insolvency. Editor in chief Meaghan Stout has been covering the situation since the cuts were first announced, which is a lot like being asked to serve as a pall bearer for your own funeral.
According to former Doane student media adviser David Swartzlander, the cuts don’t go into effect until July 1, which gives Stout and others about nine months to raise unholy hell about them, something we’ve asked you all to do throughout the week.
If you’re thinking, “None of this makes any sense. She’s graduating in a month, so she’s done with this place. And why are you dedicating so much time and energy blathering on about student media cuts at a university the size of your high school? You don’t have a horse in this race….,” well, I get it.
From the outside, this looks pathologically stupid.
If you’ve ever spent any time in student media, this makes all the sense in the world.
I asked people I know who have gone in myriad directions after their educational careers came to a close if they ever worked in student media and, if so, why it mattered to them. One of the best journalists I’ve ever been lucky enough to work with, a wordsmith and a storyteller unlike any other, didn’t disappoint:
My high school had no paper. I started one, called “The Cardinal Chirps.” There was news, sports and jokes on four mimeographed pages. (Smelled great!) It may have lasted three issues. The jokes were filler and I learned that not everyone has the same sense of humor. Don’t print jokes. Working at that paper was a revelation. I could find something that didn’t make sense – a section of the lockers were inexplicably located in a dark room with one narrow door – and write about it. It wasn’t safe for those who had their lockers in there. The principal and school board took note and changed it. No had ever brought it to their attention. The learning was true: You can’t fix something if you don’t know it is broken.
I expected a few responses from a few other people, but not much.
I was stunned when I got dozens, like this one from a journalism professor with a background in news:
I graduated from a small rural high school that didn’t even have a school paper. My interest in news grew from my mom’s obsessive consumption of newspapers (we subscribed to two and sometimes three), news magazines (I think we got four), news talk radio (on constantly), morning/noon/evening local and national TV news, public affairs shows on PBS and all the Sunday morning news talk shows, and my own growing awareness that there were other places in the world far from Tonganoxie, Kansas, that I dreamed of seeing someday. It seemed wise to understand what was going on in them before going. And before going, I had to have money. I understood from my good friend that one could be paid actual money for fixing errors in news writing by being something called a copy editor. The University Daily Kansan and my professors with newsroom experience showed me how to be that.
Another higher-ed friend who works as a student media adviser had a similar life experience:
Working in college media was the step for me that solidified how I could attain my dream to work as a professional journalist. Before my college media experience, the concept was very abstract. Moving from dreaming to doing via my student newspaper made it real for me. I am forever grateful to those who gave me the opportunity and helped me see I could do it.
Folks who took the path out of news and into corporate communications, consulting and other similar fields found that student media benefited them as well:
I wanted to write books before I signed up for journalism class in high school on kind of a whim. In that class, I found that I had a knack for journalistic writing, most likely from reading the local paper and my dad’s influence as a TV journalist. Taking that class and continuing that path led me to attend J-School at MU and altered my career path. It also gave me an understanding of and appreciation for the importance of LOCAL journalism.
These responses made sense: Student media was like an internship and a training center for going on to do great and mighty things in the field itself. However, I also saw how the people who went into fields that had nothing to do with news or PR still found amazing value in student media:
I draw from my experience at the DN almost every day. I’ve worked for two law firms and a dental office since college. I’m comfortable asking questions, I’ve learned how to build relationships and I have a better understanding of how government works. The most important thing I have learned is that no matter how much effort you put toward your day, something could change and you need to be ready to shift your priorities and maybe undo all you’ve just done.
Basically shaped my entire college experience. Learned the basic responsibilities, ethical implications, and work ethic of a journalist. Being on the paper motivated me to write about things I was interested in, when I already had to write so much for school…Also I got to interview some really interesting people!
It was my happy place. The place where I always knew what I was doing, and why. The place where everything just made sense. Why else would someone finish a shift, go home, get their books and go back to the newsroom to study. Because that’s where I was always focused.
It was my home away from home. And it allowed me to experiment with what I wanted to do.
Genuinely don’t know where to start. The friends, the experiences, now I’m working in media. Joined junior year of high school and haven’t looked back since. It gave me a purpose and quite literally saved my life a few times. I could go on and on.