If I had a dollar for every time I told a story about my days in student media, I probably could solve all the financial woes most student media outlets are experiencing.
I cut my teeth at the Badger Yearbook, got my sea legs at The Daily Cardinal and found got my first real job because of the things I did at both of those places. When the Cardinal closed down in the middle of my junior year, it felt like a death in the family. When it came back to life, it was bigger to me than the Miracle on Ice.
Of all the places I’ve worked, taught and volunteered, the ones that most strongly hold my heart are those connected with student media. As a writer, editor, adviser or board member, I found myself seeing lifelong friendships being built, quality careers being developed and generally funny moments that I still can’t shake.
The only thing more certain than the value of student media is how little value many administrators, donors and other “outside” folks place on it. The one time I reeeeaaallly contemplated punching a fellow faculty member in the face was the time he chastised a student who skipped his class because they were “playing reporter” for the paper.
Say what you want to about class-skipping or whatever, but that kid was a real reporter, doing real work, for a real publication. If you don’t believe how “real” things can get, go back and look at what publications like the Cav Daily and the Pitt News did on big stories.
The money for almost everything else comes first, it seems, with student media having to scratch and claw for whatever is left over. Administrators tend to forget how these publications lead to important stories, valuable changes and students who get incredible careers.
For some who are in the field, it can be easy to forget what life is like using a 25-year-old microwave to reheat last week’s coffee and last night’s Ramen while pumping out copy on deadline from a windowless basement in the student center. As we move on, the paper stays, fueled by the dreams of others who want to get where we have gone and want to do what we love to do.
The folks at the Independent Florida Alligator began Save Student Newspapers day in 2018 as a way for people to share stories about their experiences and to explain the importance of these publications as well. (The day was technically April 25, but if there’s one thing student journalists will understand, it’s a blown deadline…) You can find their roster of testimonials here, with some pretty great stories about life during and after the student newsroom.
Feel free to add your own thoughts via their site, or share them below. Also, it probably wouldn’t hurt to check out your old student newspaper and find out if they’ve got any needs you could fulfill. Even just knowing that you care enough to ask can really make a difference in the lives of these student journalists.
I know it always did for me.