Opinion

The Impact of Free Press on Campus

College newspapers benefit both students and staff.

Free​ ​Press Campus​ ​newspapers​ ​can​ ​do​ ​more​ ​than​ ​writing​ ​about​ ​politics​ ​and​ ​classes,​ ​they​ ​have​ ​a unique​ ​role​ ​on​ ​campuses​ ​informing​ ​students,​ ​getting​ ​them​ ​published,​ ​even​ ​being​ ​student’s​ ​own private​ ​eye.

Free​ ​press​ ​on​ ​campus​ ​goes​ ​beyond​ ​simply​ ​informing​ ​students,​ ​to​ ​creating​ ​change​ ​on campus,​ ​and​ ​even​ ​holding​ ​schools​ ​accountable​ ​to​ ​their​ ​students.​ ​The​ ​stories​ ​that​ ​are​ ​covered by​ ​campus​ ​papers​ ​are​ ​typically​ ​completely​ ​overlooked​ ​by​ ​local​ ​papers,​ ​but​ ​are​ ​of​ ​great importance​ ​to​ ​their​ ​student​ ​audience,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​ASG​ ​elections,​ ​construction​ ​on​ ​campus,​ ​and​ ​new school​ ​policies.

Photo Illustration by Madison Pearson                                                           |The Communicator

“[Student​ ​press​ ​is]​ ​Getting​ ​students​ ​published​ ​[and]​ ​giving​ ​them​ ​an​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​get published.”​ ​said​ ​Courtney​ ​Murphey,​ ​editor​ ​in​ ​chief​ ​of​ ​the​ ​​Whitworthian​.​ ​“It’s​ ​giving​ ​them​ ​an opportunity​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​about​ ​what​ ​they​ ​think​ ​is​ ​important.”

Murphey​ ​writes​ ​articles​ ​for​ ​her​ ​paper​ ​almost​ ​every​ ​week,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​editing,​ ​and​ ​strongly believes​ ​in​ ​the​ ​benefit​ ​that​ ​​ ​the​ ​paper​ ​staff​ ​gain​ ​from​ ​working​ ​to​ ​put​ ​out​ ​the​ ​paper.​ ​Her​ ​vision​ ​for the​ ​paper​ ​this​ ​year​ ​includes​ ​recruiting​ ​a​ ​larger​ ​staff.​ ​​ ​

Another​ ​editor​ ​in​ ​chief,​ ​Gabriella​ ​Ramos​ ​of WSU’s​ ​​Daily​ ​Evergreen​​ ​also​ ​supported​ ​the​ ​paper’s​ ​benefit​ ​to​ ​the​ ​reporters​ ​and​ ​staff.

“[Campus​ ​journalism]​ ​teaches​ ​real​ ​journalism​ ​to​ ​students​ ​more​ ​than​ ​classes​ ​can,”​ ​said Ramos.​ ​“They​ ​learn​ ​hands​ ​on​ ​experience,​ ​and​ ​high​ ​professional​ ​standard,​ ​meeting​ ​professional expectations,​ ​and​ ​making​ ​hard​ ​decisions,​ ​staying​ ​ethical​ ​in​ ​reporting.”

College​ ​press​ ​gets​ ​dramatic​ ​sometimes​ ​as​ ​well.​ ​Press​ ​often​ ​serves​ ​as​ ​a​ ​private​ ​eye​ ​on campus,​ ​investigating​ ​and​ ​reporting​ ​on​ ​many​ ​policies,​ ​elections,​ ​administrative​ ​decisions,​ ​and even​ ​scandals.

“If​ ​the​ ​paper​ ​wasn’t​ ​there,​ ​administrators​ ​would​ ​be​ ​unaccountable,​ ​and​ ​nobody​ ​would know​ ​about​ ​student​ ​government​ ​elections,​ ​sports,​ ​or​ ​spending,”​ ​said​ ​Ramos,​ ​“Students​ ​are​ ​not aware​ ​of​ ​how​ ​much​ ​they​ ​rely​ ​on​ ​this​ ​information”

Ramos’s​ ​paper​ ​is​ ​the​ ​only​ ​free​ ​paper​ ​in​ ​the​ ​area,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​to​ ​cover​ ​campus stories.​ ​One​ ​such​ ​story​ ​made​ ​a​ ​splash​ ​on​ ​campus​ ​when​ ​the​ ​president​ ​of​ ​the​ ​republican​ ​club, James​ ​Allsup​ ​participated​ ​in​ ​the​ ​“unite​ ​the​ ​right”​ ​Charlottesville​ ​rally.​ ​This​ ​story​ ​sparked​ ​a​ ​big reaction​ ​on​ ​campus​ ​as​ ​readers​ ​were​ ​shocked​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​this​ ​about​ ​their​ ​campus​ ​figure.​ ​After​ ​the story​ ​came​ ​out​ ​local​ ​newspapers​ ​picked​ ​up​ ​the​ ​story,​ ​and​ ​Allsup​ ​has​ ​since​ ​resigned.

Similarly,​ ​Murphey​ ​has​ ​investigated​ ​on​ ​campus​ ​as​ ​well,​ ​including​ ​digging​ ​into​ ​school policy​ ​during​ ​debate​ ​about​ ​chartering​ ​a​ ​political​ ​club.​ ​The​ ​article​ ​that​ ​The​ ​Whitworthian published​ ​brought​ ​old​ ​bylaws​ ​to​ ​light,​ ​bringing​ ​about​ ​changes​ ​to​ ​club​ ​bylaws​ ​on​ ​campus. Often,​ ​college​ ​papers​ ​find​ ​themselves​ ​in​ ​the​ ​position​ ​of​ ​investigating​ ​the​ ​schools themselves.​ ​

It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​responsibility​ ​of​ ​campus​ ​press​ ​to​ ​inform​ ​the​ ​students​ ​about​ ​the​ ​spending​ ​of school​ ​funds,​ ​student​ ​government​ ​elections,​ ​and​ ​new​ ​policy​ ​decisions.​ ​This​ ​coverage​ ​helps​ ​hold schools​ ​accountable​ ​to​ ​their​ ​students,​ ​and​ ​connects​ ​administrators​ ​with​ ​their​ ​students​ ​to​ ​ensure that​ ​student​ ​interests​ ​are​ ​being​ ​served.

“Keeping​ ​schools​ ​accountable​ ​is​ ​a​ ​big​ ​part​ ​of​ ​what​ ​student​ ​media​ ​does.”​ ​Said​ ​Mike Heistand,​ ​legal​ ​consultant​ ​and​ ​attorney​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Student​ ​Press​ ​Law​ ​Center.

Heistand​ ​cited​ ​a​ ​recent​ ​case,​ ​in​ ​which​ ​the​ ​​Technician,​ ​​of​ ​North​ ​Carolina​ ​State​ ​University was​ ​wrongfully​ ​removed​ ​from​ ​the​ ​impeachment​ ​meeting​ ​of​ ​student​ ​body​ ​treasurer​ ​John​ ​Taylor Willis.

“All​ ​this​ ​was​ ​being​ ​done​ ​behind​ ​closed​ ​doors,”​ ​Heistand​ ​said.​ ​“They​ ​challenged​ ​student government​ ​action,​ ​and​ ​made​ ​sure​ ​everything​ ​was​ ​done​ ​in​ ​an​ ​upfront​ ​way,​ ​making​ ​sure​ ​that students​ ​were​ ​represented.”

Click here to read the full​ ​story​ ​can​ ​be​ ​found​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Student​ ​Press​ ​Law​ ​Center​ ​website.
Heistand’s​ ​nearly​ ​30​ ​year​ ​long​ ​career​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Student​ ​Press​ ​Law​ ​Center​ ​has​ ​also convinced​ ​him​ ​of​ ​the​ ​impact​ ​that​ ​student​ ​press​ ​can​ ​have​ ​in​ ​affecting​ ​change.

“Change​ ​happens​ ​typically​ ​with​ ​young​ ​people.​ ​They’re​ ​not​ ​tied​ ​to​ ​the​ ​status​ ​quo,”​ ​Said Heistand.​ ​“Protests​ ​on​ ​campus​ ​bubble​ ​out​ ​from​ ​college​ ​campuses…ideas​ ​bubble​ ​out,​ ​and​ ​have an​ ​impact​ ​on​ ​the​ ​larger​ ​populus.”

It​ ​is​ ​this​ ​influence​ ​for​ ​change​ ​and​ ​impact​ ​on​ ​campuses​ ​that​ ​has​ ​kept​ ​Heistand​ ​so interested​ ​in​ ​helping​ ​student​ ​press.