On this day last year, student journalists across the nation banded together to condemn widespread budget contractions and censorship threats at student newspapers. One year later, we’re forced to do it again.
If anything, the climate for student journalists has only worsened in the last year. Amid a trend of skyrocketing costs and censorship issues, student newspapers throughout the country have ceased printing or shut down altogether. In a well-publicized case from November, the newspaper of Har-Ber High School in Arkansas was suspended after publishing a controversial investigation on the campus.
Here in Berkeley, The Daily Californian is the only daily newspaper serving the campus and city. Student journalists at the Daily Cal willingly assume the mantle of producing the city’s paper of record. We send our reporters to local concerts, business openings, protests and every council meeting in the chambers of Old City Hall. Without the Daily Cal, 148 years of local news reporting will come to an end.
And it’s not just cities. College publications are some of the few institutions in this country holding universities accountable. It was the student paper of Auburn University that exposed depictions of blackface and racist photos in the college’s old yearbooks. Earlier this month, news outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle and NBC Bay Area credited the Daily Cal for shedding light on appalling living conditions in UC Berkeley’s only all-female residential hall. And student journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida received a special mention during the 2019 Pulitzer Prize award ceremony for their heartbreaking and emotional coverage of the school shooting that shook their campus.
Despite these extraordinary achievements, student newspapers struggle with autonomy and sustainability. Within the UC system alone, staff members are forced to go on strike to fight for their organization’s independence, while others burn out after working countless hours each week for little to no money, sacrificing grades and social activities to keep newspapers running. Just this week, the staff of The Prodigy at UC Merced informed us that the publication will not be receiving any funding for the upcoming semester — potentially forcing it to close its doors by the end of the summer.
The Daily Cal has trained thousands of journalists over the last century, many of whom go on to do extraordinary work in journalism and other fields. Just recently, several of our alumni were Pulitzer Prize finalists and winners. Our independence is critical to our ability to push the envelope — to tell the stories that no one else is telling. We’ve stayed alive for so long because of our incredible network of staff, alumni and community supporters. And student newspapers everywhere deserve the same.
So read the hundreds of student-curated stories published each day, and stay informed. Pick up a copy of the Daily Cal at one of our dozens of rack locations. Donate to our newsroom. Dollar by dollar, day by day, we can #SaveStudentNewsrooms.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.