Late in the 20th century college newspapers seemed to be weathering the newspaper industry’s financial downturn better than most professional dailies. That’s no longer the case.
The latest college paper to make death-rattle headlines is the Daily Illini at the University of Illinois in Champaign where movie critic alum Roger Ebert is helping raise money for the paper where he got his start. Story
It seems the Daily Illini not only is late on its mortgage payments, but also owes one-quarter of a million dollars to its printer. (Daily Illini’s troubles)
In this case and with so many other college newspapers, there is a rather simple solution, though it’s one less-enlightened university presidents are reluctant to seize. That is, the college CEO can mandate or advocate a student-service-fee increase to help keep the campus paper afloat. This usually can be done by instituting an annual, per-student fee that’s less than the cost of a single Sunday New York Times newspaper or of a Starbuck’s froth-filled drink.
In most cases, student papers — whether independent, classroom-lab generated, university owned, or some combination thereof – are written by and for students and the entire university community. Regardless of the form they take – print, online or some combination – campus papers inform and unite the local academic community in a way unique from that of any other form of communication.
Unfortunately, some university administrators, presidents and CEO’s place little value on a robust, healthy press. (One such situation)
But when a college newspaper is not allowed to flourish, everyone suffers – students, faculty, administrators, and the very tradition and reputation of the college itself.
And the next generation’s Roger Ebert may never have the chance to give even a single thumb up at the movies.