If you don’t help #SaveStudentNewsrooms, nobody will

journalism_pdowney_ss
Phillip Downey/File

Today, student journalists across the nation speak with one voice. Years of salary cuts, budget reductions and censorship attempts have left us with no choice. Today, we call upon our readers, alumni and supporters to help us #SaveStudentNewsrooms.

In Berkeley, particularly, the power of student journalism reverberates through Old City Hall’s council chambers and into every aspect of city life.

Who can forget, for example, that it was student journalists at Berkeley High School who first broke the story that local landlord Lakireddy Bali Reddy and his family were importing young women from India to work as sex slaves? That story led to the Berkeley High Jacket’s staff being awarded the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists’ highest honor, Journalist of the Year — the first time a nonprofessional journalist or staff won the award.

At the university level, student journalists have taken to breaking the most pressing academic stories of the day, even as professional papers increasingly cut back on education coverage because of layoffs. Across the country, it was university newspapers that led the charge against sexual misconduct, forcing much of academia to reckon with its own #MeToo movement. Here in Berkeley, reporters from The Daily Californian proved that sexual misconduct throughout the UC system — and a culture of underpunishing perpetrators — was systemic, using documentation and data found through multiple California Public Records Act requests.

Despite all this, student papers are experiencing a period of contraction. Across the country, advertising revenues continue to decrease, and financial struggles force many to sacrifice their print editions and independence. In fact, the Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida started the #SaveStudentNewsrooms movement after Southern Methodist University’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Campus, announced it would reaffiliate with its university.

Worse still are the efforts by campus authorities to suppress the work of student journalists — such as when Western Kentucky University sued the College Heights Herald last year after the Kentucky attorney general ruled that the school had to turn over Title IX records to the paper.

Already, student papers often operate under constraints that would be untenable in the professional world. The vast majority of the Daily Cal’s staff tirelessly works countless hours for free, volunteering valuable time and often sacrificing grades, social experiences and more to serve our readers and tell Berkeley’s story.

This movement goes beyond just the fair and impartial reporting that student papers lend to their communities. The halls of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed News, NPR and more are filled to the brim with journalists who got their start at student papers — they now hold the country’s most powerful and rich accountable. Without a healthy ecosystem of independent student newspapers, the future of a national press that keeps Washington and countless state capitals liable for their words and actions is imperiled.

The Daily Cal has proudly been independent from UC Berkeley since 1971, when we broke from the campus. We’ve trained thousands of journalists over the years, including some who just won Pulitzer Prizes for reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 election and for covering the Santa Rosa wildfire.

So read our stories and stay informed. Pick up our print edition at one of our hundreds of convenient rack locations. Link and share our content on social media. Engage with our coverage by submitting a letter to the editor or an op-ed. Donate to us. Join our membership program. Tell a friend how vital the Daily Cal is to your everyday life.

With your help, we’ll continue fighting the good fight, and together, we can save student newsrooms.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.