#SaveStudentNewsrooms: UNT’s independent student media face severe budget cuts

#SaveStudentNewsrooms: UNT’s independent student media face severe budget cuts

#SaveStudentNewsrooms: UNT’s independent student media face severe budget cuts
September 20
00:24 2018

We have seen — especially in recent years — how utterly vital it is to democracy to forge and sustain an independent, unbiased media. But the fight against fake news and the fight to defend the First Amendment are not the only media struggles that demand our attention.

Student-run media organizations at universities and high schools across the U.S. are seeing significant budget slashes, and the North Texas Daily is one of them.

In 2018, the Daily received a letter signed by UNT’s Vice President of Student Affairs Elizabeth With and then-SGA President Barrett Cole on behalf of the Student Service Fee Advisory Committee, which stated plans to “wean” the Daily off student service fee funding over the course of the next three years. Our friends at KNTU also received a similar letter of the committee’s intentions to “wean” the student-run radio station off student service fee funding.

Pinching our purse strings means paid staffers are getting paid less. Less pay means less interest in the program, and it especially discourages those who cannot afford it financially. This makes for a less diverse staff, which in turn is detrimental to our coverage and the content we produce.

We take our responsibility to the student body seriously — but our funding and ability to produce news and inform the public is in jeopardy.

The Daily has 16 paid staffers out of 116 total members. If the Daily is to be increasingly “weaned off” the funding it relies on, there will eventually come a day we literally cannot afford to continue to operate. To avoid discontinuation, support must come from somewhere else.

The printing and distribution costs of a weekly newspaper cannot be covered by a bake sale.

In the letter mentioned above sent on behalf of the Student Service Fee Advisory Committee, it was suggested that the Daily look to the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to make up the loss of funding from student service fees.

There’s just one problem with that: We are an independent newspaper.

UNT as an institution does not fund this paper, which means no one on this campus can tell us what we can or cannot publish. We serve as a voice for the students — by the students.

Our organization’s high standard for publishing has only increased through the years. The Daily consistently brings home awards at journalism competitions.

So if the North Texas Daily hasn’t changed, and the necessity for an independent, student-run news source hasn’t changed, then what has?

A university system has to have a watchdog holding it up to the light. To put that into perspective, we’ve reported on “unfavorable” things. From the string of sexual assaults that took place around campus at the hands of a UNT custodian to the street preachers who showed up unannounced on campus, we’ve covered it all — independently.

Without student journalism, the only coverage of the school would be the university public relation teams highlighting the good and glossing over the bad.

Recently, the Strategic Communications team at the University of Maryland painted the school’s housing crisis in a bit softer (and perhaps, disingenuous) light than the independent student news publication The Diamondback:

Student media not only has the capacity but the obligation to look into on-campus issues, get the facts and initiate steps to accountability. Large institutions have proven time and time again their first loyalty is to their image and saving face, not transparency. Considering this, who else but student journalists could shed light on that which universities attempt to sweep under the rug?

Perhaps it’s best to keep doing what we’re doing and remain hopeful.

It should be said student newspapers don’t need a mountain of accolades to matter. We don’t seek truth for the awards or praise. Within the pages of a student newspaper lies information the administration isn’t publicizing, highlights of community members telling their stories and impactful information for students to make informed decisions. If a student news organization is doing these things, it should never hurt for funding.

Though we will be facing tough times when those three years come and pass, we are proud to be a part of one of the best journalism schools in Texas and for the information we’ve been able to provide to not only the students of UNT but also the city of Denton.

To donate to student media and save student newsrooms, click here.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

About Author

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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