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If We Don’t Build Up Young Journalists, How Do You Expect to Have An L.A. Taco?

6:05 PM PDT on April 25, 2018

    As the news media industry continues to contract, shed workers, and deal with constant political attacks, the urgency and action over the future of news is trickling down to college journalists. Student editors and reporters at Los Angeles area campuses and nationwide on Wednesday took to their op-ed pages to express concern over the future of editorial independence on campus.

    This April 25 became a national day of action for "saving student journalism," with college papers joining forces to bring awareness to budget cutbacks and threats to editorial independence that many student newsrooms are facing. The #SaveStudentNewsrooms campaign started with editors of the University of Florida student paper, the Independent Florida Alligator. The movement comes after years of cutbacks — seen as pay cuts to working student journalists, and cutbacks on pages or even days of publication.

    "An independent newsroom is intended to have little to no financial ties to the college, meaning that the paper can contain stories that present the school in good or bad light without any serious repercussions," said The Sundial at Cal State Northridge, in an opinion article today. "However, due to this no strings attached relationship, some student newspapers are often left struggling to find sponsorship."

    The paper went on: "Students have the right to discuss the issues that lie on their campus and we have the right to discuss it with the public – you! Without this right, without this independent funding, our ability to present to you a look into the workings of your school is severely compromised."

    At the University of Southern California, the independent Daily Trojan expressed dismay with a string of cases of university administrations trying to censor or punish student reporters at other colleges.

    “We’re angry that in a political climate in which newspaper subscriptions are up, trust in institutions is down and critical journalism in just the past year has created social waves and mass movements, universities like Southern Methodist University are choosing to take away the independence of their student newspaper the Daily Campus,” said the editorial published Wednesday, referring an emblematic case of a college paper losing its independence from the university it covers.

    “We’re angry that universities, which purport to stand for ideals like diverse thought and knowledge, suddenly oppose this when it comes from student journalists,” the editorial continued.

    Archival photo of The Sundial staff, circa 1959/Via The Sundial.

    L.A. TACO journalists concur. This publication is made in part by alums of college papers. College papers serve as a pipeline to professional newsrooms across the nation, but also frequently to other professions, such as careers in the legal field.

    The Sundial’s Editor-in-Chief Kianna Hendricks said the paper supports the efforts.

    “We're supportive of student media and want every student journalist to be able to practice their craft," Hendricks told L.A. TACO in an email. “Whether it's a big or small newsroom, student journalists should have a platform to be the voice of their community."

    The Sundial is a financially independent student newspaper and website. One way they sustain themselves is through advertisements. But not all student papers have access to large ad markets, so across the country, troubling signs have been emerging showing that the student press is under threat.

    Read testimonials from college journalists who've begun organizing at SaveStudentNewsrooms.com.

    "As an independent student organization, we are one of a minority of student newspapers in the nation that prints five days a week," the Daily Trojan editorial added. "Yes, as student editors, we experience grueling production nights, work between 20 and 40 hours in the newsroom each week and occasionally clash with a sometimes adversarial University, but we wouldn’t have it any other way."

    RELATED: I Was Retained By the New Owners of the L.A. Weekly, And It Sucked

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