“The Daily Aztec isn’t dying, but it is limping,” the editorial board of San Diego State University’s student newspaper wrote. “Most of our cameras are five to six generations old. Many of our newsroom computers are almost ten years old. Most of our office chairs are broken and our carpet is stained from a decade of late-night coffee spills.” The editorial board of Kennesaw State University’s The Sentinel added, “We are the future of [news] outlets, and it is crucial that we have a stable framework to operate from. That cannot happen if we have a minimal budget.” Without the freedom that independence makes possible, the University of Arizona’s Daily Wildcat chimed in, “publications become little more than marketing tools.”
Student newspapers have faced a major funding crisis, forcing many to shutter or reaffiliate with the same universities they aim to report on. Today, a group of 129 student news organizations across the country have come together in an alliance, Save Student Newsrooms, for a national day of action aimed at spreading their message and building solidarity. From current editors posting Twitter threads of their papers’ best pieces to experienced reporters explaining how student journalism shaped who they are, thousands of former and current student journalists are using their print and online platforms to highlight the impact of student work and to stress the importance of journalistic independence.
Several newsrooms are using the day to launch fundraising campaigns on GoFundMe. Papers are publishing scathing editorials. Many are hosting “Show Us Your Newsroom” events on Facebook Live, giving readers an inside look at how student newsrooms operate. Editors are mobilizing alumni networks and chatting on social media, strategizing and sharing information. And today, The Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida, which launched the initiative, published a four-page special section dedicated to the movement.
The Save Student Newsrooms campaign was started by editors of the Alligator to support student news organizations fighting for independence and financial stability. The paper’s editor in chief, Melissa Gomez, and her managing editors, Jimena Tavel and Caitlin Ostroff, said they were alarmed to read that the independent student newspaper at Southern Methodist University, The Daily Campus, will reaffiliate with the university and cease print production after several years of financial stress. “There was a lot of frustration, anger, disbelief that something like this could happen to a student publication,” Gomez told me. “Part of me was like, ‘What if this happened to the Alligator?’ And another thought was, ‘This could be happening to other publications as well, and we may have not seen it or heard about it.’ ” On April 11, Alligator editors published an editorial that read, in part, “Student journalists cannot wait for another year to strategize—some can barely wait a month—we need to act now.”