Last week the Rutgers-New Brunswick student community voted as a majority to continue to allow the charges for the campus newspaper, The Daily Targum, to be assessed on student term bills. It allows the Targum, the second-oldest college daily in the United States, to remain independent from the university.
The news about this vote reminded me about the importance of an independent press on a college campus, especially for students who intend to pursue journalism careers. An independent press cannot be told to retract a story when the reporting is accurate. A university administration cannot suppress the reporting, though it must be given the opportunity to express its views and respond to the story. An independent press is supposed to behave in much the same way as the local off-campus newspaper. In fact, at Cornell University, the campus newspaper, The Daily Sun, is also the daily newspaper for the college town: Ithaca, New York.
College students do not need a journalism education to pursue a journalism career. However, they need experience at journalism writing outside of the classroom. An independent press is more likely to offer this opportunity versus a campus newspaper that is tied to the communications or journalism department and its faculty.
The Targum, as one example, does not have a faculty advisor as student clubs do. Instead it has an editorial advisory board whose members are usually practicing editors or writers. Your local paper may have a similar board that considers the merits and legitimacy of a story or editorial opinion. Such a board also needs to consider the newspaper’s relationships with advertisers. An independent campus newspaper needs advertising to survive as well as subscriptions or student charges. Just like your local newspaper.
If your college-bound student is considering journalism as a possible career, here are some questions that s/he should ask when visiting colleges:
The experience of being on a campus newspaper can be a very rewarding one, provided that reporters and editors have the opportunity to do as their real-world counterparts do, report the news accurately and fairly, without undue influence from a college administration, trustees or elected officials. The Targum, among other college dailies and weeklies, has the benefit of being independent, and placed in a position to behave as a real world paper would behave. Other college media outlets might not be as fortunate.
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