Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, January 20, 2019

Staff editorial: We’re joining the call to #SaveStudentNewsrooms

Loss of editorial and financial independence of campus publications pose a threat to transparency at colleges

Staff editorial: We’re joining the call to #SaveStudentNewsrooms

In April, The Daily Campus, the student newspaper at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, announced that it would be forced to be hosted underneath the supervision of SMU’s journalism department due to a lack of funding. Given the university’s history of attempting to censor The Daily Campus, student journalists were concerned about the paper’s future as an editorially independent publication.

The Daily Campus’ situation is the latest example of a disturbing trend in college media as more and more student newspapers face editorial and financial threats to their independence. This is primarily due to changes in advertising revenue, depleting newspapers of much-needed funding that keeps publications independent of their universities. This poses a direct threat to transparent, ethical coverage of university news.

In response, The Alligator, the University of Florida’s student newspaper, launched the #SaveStudentNewsrooms campaign, which called for student publications to stand up for the independence of student media on April 25. As a staff, The Eagle stands in firm solidarity with this movement and with student-led, editorially independent newspapers at universities across the United States.

Since 1925, The Eagle has served as American University’s source for news coverage and student voices. In the last decade, The Eagle faced its own financial difficulties. Thanks to the dedication of our alumni and our membership in the Media Board, The Eagle is now in a more stable financial position and remains editorially independent from the University.

That editorial independence has been vital to providing students and the wider AU community with perspectives that would not be possible if the University had the ability to censor our content.

In just the past year, The Eagle conducted in-depth investigations into discrimination accusations against Provost Scott Bass and the 16-year legacy of Epsilon Iota, an unrecognized fraternity accused of sexual assault, drug use and alcohol abuse. We’ve covered the University’s dismal campus climate for black students and dug into the experiences of Muslim students and students with physical disabilities on campus.

The Eagle’s opinion section has been at the center of campus debates in the past year, featuring a column about AU’s possible ties to slavery that led to university action. The section also launched an Identities column, a space for members of diverse and underrepresented communities to highlight issues as well as positive advancements in their respective communities. These outlets for student perspectives would not be possible without The Eagle’s editorial independence.

And when mainstream media organizations are not allowed on AU’s campus, as they were in the aftermath of a hate crime on campus last May, it is vital that The Eagle is free to provide consistent, objective and comprehensive coverage to keep our community informed.

Outside of the content we produce, The Eagle provides a wide-reaching productive community in connection with our beloved alumni and the School of Communication. Our staff report that their experience at the paper provides them with a better understanding of the importance of dedication, responsibility, thoroughness and community. Additionally, staff members of all majors say they feel connected with the campus and better informed. Our organization operates as the intersection between the classroom and the community. Through mentorship, reporters learn how to implement class material with real-world impact.

Despite disturbing trends of censorship, The Eagle is committed to the belief that an editorially independent student newspaper is central to a productive, engaged campus community. We’ve seen this within our own newsroom, and in the wider AU community.

We join in support of student newspapers across the nation and other student media organizations at AU. Finally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to our alumni, the School of Communication, our staff and faculty advisors and the general campus community that has supported us for 93 years. We urge you all to, once again, support us and the innumerable student newspapers across the U.S. in our effort to #SaveStudentNewsrooms.


Editor’s note: To donate to The Eagle Innovation Fund, an endowment to fund the future of The Eagle, please go here.

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