Opinion: Support for journalism starts with student news

The climate of journalism is in a crucial state. With a president determined to warp public opinion on reporting that doesn’t agree with him, shrinking newsrooms and fewer and fewer available resources, it’s time for the public to decide if it wants to support a free press or live in darkness.

Never has this decision been more urgent than now, and it starts at the earliest of stages in the smallest of newsrooms. Now is the time for universities and their representatives to take action and support student journalists.

When I first read the Rocky Mountain Collegian’s tweet, I felt a lump in my throat. The tweet explained that the majority of copies of the outlet’s printed April 9 edition had been stolen from the Collegian’s distribution racks and recycled or ripped apart. Colorado State University (CSU) claims the theft, which resulted in over 1,000 copies being stolen, was in response to the paper’s cover story. The cover story details allegations of misreported campaign finances by Associated Students of Colorado State University presidential candidate Ben Amundson and vice presidential candidate Alexandra Farias.

You may read this and say “so it’s just about a student government election, what’s the big deal?” The big deal is the obvious obstruction of information presented by a free press.

As Editor-in-Chief Haley Candelario said in a Denver Post article, “[The Collegian is] not this big, bad newspaper trying to corrupt the minds of student voters. We’re just saying students deserve to know information about their representatives. We’ve done everything we can to give it fair, balanced, accurate coverage.”

No comment has been issued by CSU in regards to the incident, and for Candelario, the hypocrisy of CSU’s student government’s claims of transparency is “frustrating.”

Access to information is a right. It enables us to engage in our civic duty. It is the cornerstone of democracy. It is what holds the powerful accountable, whether it be a student government official or the president of the United States.

We see many different ways that information is being obstructed in our country. Donald Trump has manipulated the narrative of “fake news” and used it in an attempt to delegitimize negative coverage of him and his administration. He has barred journalists from White House briefings and called them “stupid,” “rude” and “terrible.” And let’s not forget when he mocked a disabled reporter. For Trump, it isn’t news, it’s “lies” and his rhetoric is causing his supporters to choose ignorance over truth.

It is no different than what has occurred on the CSU campus.

It’s time to call out such blatant attempts to obstruct the right to information. It starts with schools like CSU and showing support for student papers like the Collegian. If universities are truly meant to facilitate and foster the passions of today’s youth, then departments should stand wholeheartedly by the hard-working students who juggle classes, homework and other college struggles as they dedicate themselves to informing the student body and community at large.

And I do not see this.

Last year, various student newspapers across the country took part in the #savestudentnewsrooms movement, catalyzed by Melissa Gomez, the then editor-in-chief of the Independent Alligator at the University of Florida. Gomez took action after reading a Twitter thread from Southern Methodist alumna Jessica Huseman, who wrote that SMU’s paper, the Daily Campus, was shutting down.

“This is a travesty — especially because @SMU has no commitment at all to transparency and freedom of student voices,” Huseman tweeted.

Soon after, the Alligator saw budget cuts and ended up dropping their print publication due to a lack of resources and support. But the paper’s editors were not silent, and we should not be either.

Students journalists took to the site Save Student Newsrooms to tell people why student journalism matters.

“I would have never entertained the idea of a career in journalism without the ability to try it out myself in a low-stakes, low-risk environment,” wrote Ben Conarck, a then-editor for the Vermont Cynic.

“I learned more at The Red & Black than I did at any of the internships I had while attending the University of Georgia,” stated a former reporter for the Red & Black.

And as my own personal attest, I can say that joining the CU Independent has taught me more, given me more and allowed me more than I could have hoped for when it comes to journalism. I have truly discovered my passion through the CUI and for that I will always be grateful.

Now, our country faces a great challenge. Do we stand by as hedge funds suffocate local newsrooms like the Denver Post? Do we let our president demonize and incite violence against reporters? And do we say nothing when a student body has its information stolen from them?

It’s time to step up and support an industry that makes us truly free. But how can we address the problems on a national level when incidents like the paper theft of the Collegian occur? It’s on the universities to support their student newsrooms, and then maybe, just maybe, we can end this dangerous spiral.

Contact CU Independent Senior News Editor Robert Tann at robert.tann@colorado.edu 

Robert Tann

Senior News Editor

Robert Tann is a sophomore student studying Journalism with a minor in Technology, Arts and Media. He lived abroad in London, UK for several years before coming to Colorado. His interests include national and local issues that effect CU and the campus community. When he's not reporting or writing, he enjoys hitting the slopes or hiking around chautauqua.

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