The issue: Students have venerable newspaper’s fate in their hands
UC Davis’ campus newspaper is closing in on its 99th birthday, but it will not make it to 100 unless it gets an infusion of cash from the student body. The staff at The California Aggie is pushing a campus referendum beginning Tuesday to charge students $3.10 per quarter. If the vote fails, so will the student paper.
COLLEGE NEWSPAPERS play a unique role in academic life across the country. Not only do they keep the students informed of on-campus happenings, they provide a crucial alternative voice to the administration’s party line. Without The Aggie, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Orpina told The Enterprise, “Every single thing that the students read will be basically a press release from UC Davis.”
That’s not an exaggeration; university PR and communications departments are savvier than ever. Students need and deserve a media outlet that will reflect their point of view on campus news, and express their voice on the issues of the day. The newspaper is often the highest-profile institution at a university capable of standing up for the students against the establishment.
In the bigger picture, college papers serve as an incubator for future journalists, especially at a school like UC Davis, which lacks a journalism program. It is on campus papers that the reporters, columnists and photographers hone the skills they need to take up their crucial role in a free society. In order to function, a democracy needs an informed populace, who, in turn, need the journalists coming out of these college papers to keep them informed.
BUT THE FINANCIAL downturn hit the newspaper business hard, and campus papers, which can be less appealing to advertisers, took the brunt of the damage. The Aggie was able to stay afloat by tapping its reserves, but those are all but exhausted and the newspaper simply doesn’t make enough money to survive on its own.
So it is turning to the students to stay alive. The community-funded model may be the way of the future for student papers; Rutgers, Michigan and UC Berkeley all have gone that route, for example. Now, it’s up to UC Davis students: 20 percent of the student body must vote, and 60 percent plus one of those voting must approve the measure.
Is $9.30 a year worth it to save The Aggie? We think so. It would be a shame if it doesn’t make it to that 100th birthday.