Journalism plays a crucial role in society, a fact we are constantly reminded of these days, as the nation’s political climate is shaped by allegations of President Trump’s extramarital affairs, the latest revelation of the James Comey saga and the upcoming summit between the U.S. and North Korea. Often, however, the importance of journalism, especially student journalism, is contested, fraught and dismissed. Despite this, student journalism is important in establishing community, providing an honest voice and holding powerful institutions and people accountable.
Student journalism on campuses — college and high school alike — serve an important function in providing a sense of community. It is a forum through which news is shared about important social, academic and leisure events. It also provides a space in which students are allowed to share their opinions and develop their voices. Important discourses often take place in newspapers and magazines that are run by student journalists. This facilitates a community that is in conversation with one another, even if the dialogue may be fueled by disagreement.
Journalism, unlike some other types of writing, is characterized by a prioritization of clarity. In this sense student journalism can provide a truly honest voice that does not seek to obscure, but rather clarify and inform. The language is accessible and free of jargon. For this reason, student journalism is important because it provides information and discussions on issues pertinent to our community in an inclusive manner that can be read by people unfamiliar with the topic at hand. This is particularly meaningful in higher education communities, where the most common form of discourse is that of academic and scholarly work, which too often is unnecessarily complex, hard to access and exclusive.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, student journalism is important because it is a tool to hold those in power accountable. This role is universal of all journalism, from the professionals at The New York Times, to here at Amherst. The Student has been responsible for critical op-eds about sexual assault, important news coverage on the historic Amherst Uprising, investigative articles about gender in athletics, pieces that detail crucial marches and protests relating to Trump and news on the gender quota policy from Res Life last year. All these help keep institutions and people accountable to and liable for the effects of their power.
Despite these benefits, student publications are under threat. The issue is primarily about funding, and this is part of a larger problem in the journalism industry. The death of the print industry has devastated national and college publications alike. Many have had to reinvent their brand and move digital. Student journalists continue to do important work amidst this turmoil that has affected the entire industry.
The importance of student journalism should not be underappreciated, as it often requires students’ courageous acts of vulnerability, such as opening up and sharing their experiences with accessibility officials on campus and the Counseling Center. Student journalism is also elevated when students take the time to work and write articles on policy changes regarding Asian and Asian American student spaces, issues with Residential Life and the ever-pervasive culture of sexual assault on campus. It takes effort, dedication and courage to do these things, and our newspaper and community are better for it.