On #StudentPressFreedom Day, remember the perpetual significance of local journalism

On #StudentPressFreedom Day, remember the perpetual significance of local journalism

On #StudentPressFreedom Day, remember the perpetual significance of local journalism
January 30
20:55 2019

In the days following mass layoffs at media giants Buzzfeed, HuffPost and Gannett, we’re left wondering what the takeaway is. Brilliant, hardworking journalists doing groundbreaking work on high profile sexual assault accusations, Title IX updates, LGBTQ issues and more are out of jobs not because they were bad at them, but because the companies they worked for re-prioritized to make more money. This is the future student journalists have to look forward to.

News is not dispensable in a democratic society. In fact, the freedom of the press is a cornerstone of the first amendment in the United States, and with serious forces working against us, journalism in this country needs equally serious support from audiences — now more than ever.

It was suggested by UNT President Neal Smatresk that if the North Texas Daily won more awards, it wouldn’t face an uncertain future. If only certificates were a form of currency. We can’t sit idly by as various entities attack, discredit and dissolve journalistic endeavors that work to sustain and improve our communities. So what can be done to support the future of journalism and in turn, student press freedom?

Donate and subscribe to your local news outlets.

These ongoing layoffs and growing disillusionment with journalism as a whole are being reflected in smaller newsrooms across the country. More and more often, funds or editorial independence are being funneled away from news organizations, ensuring their demise. One example of many can be seen in SMU’s The Daily Campus, a 103-year-old independent newspaper forced to shut down print operations in May 2018 following university officials’ concern with costs and declining ad revenue.

The Daily‘s own budget cuts from the past year help piece together a tale of large institutions’ increasing unwillingness to fund quality, independent journalism.

The number of paid Daily staffers has decreased each year, as have their wages, and summer editions of the Daily are no longer feasible due to funding cuts. As our organization’s reliance on support from the university’s student service fee continues to decrease, who is to say that the North Texas Daily isn’t destined for the same fate as our colleagues at SMU?

An article by the Kenbridge Victoria Dispatch lays out the fact that when local media is shut down and reporters can’t hold governing systems accountable, local governments both cost and borrow more money to be run less efficiently. Local taxpayers bare the burden of these increased costs.

When a newspaper dries up, the community it served is left unaware there’s fraud going on in City Hall. Without reporters digging it up, church officials can continue to prey on and victimize children in secrecy. Without local media, there is no singular, updated source of information on local politicians, leading to decreased civic engagement, more corrupt city officials and a degraded populace.

On Jan. 29, Sen. José Rodríguez of Texas filed SB 514, a bill that would solidify press freedom for student journalists in Texas.

The bill is still in its preliminary stages and hasn’t yet been assigned to a committee. If it were to pass, this bill would give Texas student publications the same press freedom protections as the likes of The Washington Post and The New York Times. SB 514 sets out to prevent Texas schools from encroaching on their student news organizations, and as you can see, we need all the help we can get.

Slashing the number of watchful eyes forcing local institutions into transparency and accountability will only result in community deterioration. In our current landscape, local and student media need external financial contributions to thrive. Support our aim to continue informing and inspiring North Texas by donating to the North Texas Daily at https://one.unt.edu/student-media.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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