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Why we need student journalism
As the weekly print issue comes to an end, outgoing editor-in-chief shares his thoughts on the end of an era
May 2, 2023
The Collegian is funded by the students we aim to serve.
A small portion of student fees goes toward our publication, helping us pay for reporters’ salaries and print issues. Advertisements, grants and student government also contribute a bit to our funding. The money also goes to our supplement papers: Uhuru Na Umoja, La Voz de Aztlán, Hye Sharzhoom and Asian Pacific Review.
Our website and equipment are also thanks to those same fees, and it’s how The Collegian can remain your independent, student-run newspaper. Students years ago voted to add Collegian funding to their enrollment fees. Currently, each of you pays $5.50 each semester.
Those student fees haven’t gone up since 2010.
In 2010, California’s minimum wage was $8. Now we pay each of our staff members $16.50 per hour. Students’ wages make up nearly 40% of The Collegian budget, and it would be unjust to take that financial stability from them as cost rises.
We are grateful for the student community, past, present and future, who keep student journalism alive. But to prevent a substantial monetary loss, Tuesday, May 2, is the last time The Collegian will print a weekly edition of the newspaper.
I’ve been with The Collegian for two years, and it’s sad to see the weekly print go. But it’s important to keep fighting for more support for local and student journalism. It’s bigger than just a newspaper.
The Collegian isn’t going anywhere. We’re more than just a weekly, 12-page issue. We will continue to be your university newspaper with our new website and our new mobile app. The end of weekly print does not mean the end of us.
Printing the paper makes up 15% of our budget, but there’s been a downward trend in print for a long time. This publication used to be The Daily Collegian when it started over 100 years ago. It then diminished to three times a week, then two and finally once a week in 2018.
Now, The Collegian will be doing two magazine-style publications every semester.
This shouldn’t be a debate about viewership.
From coverage of the pandemic to protests to campus controversies, this publication has seen a spike in readers and traction since it became a weekly edition. Many of the people we report about cherish the print paper and ask our staff for copies. Fellow students have come to me saying they love reading the paper with their grandparents and parents.
Some ethnic supplements rely heavily on the newspaper to share their diverse cultures and stories. Others like Hye Sharzoom get donations to mail its print publications to Armenia.
This shouldn’t be about finances.
The Collegian isn’t a for-profit company. This isn’t a debate about whether or not journalism should switch to all digital. We had multiple opportunities in the past several years to save the paper, but all opportunities were denied.
Unlike other news publications that are owned by publishing companies, hedge funds or billionaires, The Collegian is a product of Fresno State funding, so it depends on whether or not the university wants the newspaper.
And that’s the real issue. When we asked to increase student fees, most recently in Fall 2022, the proposal after several months was denied by the president’s office. What was disheartening and worrisome was the question the university president asked when he came to our office in March: Why do students need The Collegian?
First of all, we have an entire journalism department. Collegian alumni have ventured off to the New York Times, NPR, MLB, Fresno Bee, USA Today, and more.
When the university president visited our office in March to speak with Collegian reporters and editors, he wanted us to justify to him why the newspaper was important. Instead of encouraging their education and willingness to learn, I had to watch them justify the careers they are aiming for and the work they are currently doing.
When The Collegian funds were denied, it came with recommendations from the president’s office. That recommendation assumed that our problem was readership, not acknowledging that we hadn’t had a fee increase in over 10 years.
The president’s office also recommended that The Collegian work more closely with Fresno State’s student government in order to tap into “pockets of money” for funding.
Yes, Associated Students Inc. gets consistent coverage from us and it recently helped us fund computer and camera equipment.
However, the president’s recommendations show a troubling need for more journalism education. The freedom of the press is a constitutional right, and if this is a student-run publication, it breaks the journalism code of ethics if we collaborate with the student government we’re supposed to be impartially covering.
Yes, we appreciate the president coming to talk to us. But we were concerned about some of the things said. It contradicts the very education we are learning in our journalism classes.
The Collegian is supposed to cover stories important to the Fresno State community and be the voice of Bulldog students, faculty and staff.
When the university has failed people in our community, those people come to us. We still have much work to do; in my two years here, I learned how much corruption and harassment persists. It seems like many departments and organizations I try to report on at Fresno State have some sort of controversy with people suffering, waiting for someone to break their story.
Denying increases in our funding has greater consequences than no print publication. It’s denying more hours for overworked reporters. It’s denying students who want to join our staff, but we can’t afford to hire them. It’s denying our university more consistent and groundbreaking coverage.
It’s denying the fact that Fresno State has its issues. It’s denying all the things it sweeps under the rug. Why do we need The Collegian? Why do we need local, student journalism?
We’re not an anti-Fresno State publication. We want to improve upon it, have fun and enjoy journalism. If university officials really want to achieve its goals and be an open, honest university, it needs The Collegian to highlight its problems and solutions.