Support student journalism before it disappears

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The current staff of The Sewanee Purple. Not pictured: Halle King (C’20), Alicia Wikner (C’21), and Matt Hembree (C’20). Photo by Luke Williamson (C’21).

By The Sewanee Purple Editorial Board

April 25 marks a day of action, dubbed by the school paper The Independent Florida Alligator as “Support Student Journalism Day.” Here at The Purple, we support that mission wholeheartedly. Student newspapers across the country are dwindling, often forced to accept interference from their college administrations in order to survive financially. Student papers offer a crucial voice, and if that voice is lost or stifled, the truth about important issues on campuses across the country becomes a lot harder to find.

We’re in a lucky position; while most of our costs are generously funded by the University, we’ve maintained editorial independence. No one dictates what we write or how we write it. Still, in such a small community, there are always pressures from a multitude of sources on how we should do our job.

Ideally, a student newspaper contains news by the students and for the students. The Purple is also fortunate to have readers and support in many other areas: faculty, staff, alumni, and other community members. Our paper often contains news unavailable anywhere else. Unless there’s a controversy, papers from other cities won’t cover our school.

We take this responsibility seriously. It can be a hard job with few resources; we don’t have a journalism school to teach us the ropes, most public record laws don’t apply to us, and our office, while very much beloved, has a chair break in every meeting. At times, it can feel like a bit of a rag-tag operation, but there’s also a lot to be proud of.

Just this semester, we’ve covered the Charlie Rose controversy, the elimination of the Japanese department, arson on campus, and other issues. Student journalists should not be underestimated. We work long and often inconvenient hours in order to report and write on topics we think our readers need and want to know.

At The Purple, journalism is usually self-taught, and there can be a steep learning curve. Despite our differences from other student newspapers, we share their mission, and many times we share their struggles. Student newspapers can be a labor of love, long hours with little or no pay. We believe there’s a far higher price if we lose those newspapers.

The Sewanee Purple is your newspaper, too. Whether you’re a student, alum, parent, professor, staff member, or community member, we want you to feel just as invested in the paper as we are. Reach out to us with your questions, concerns, feedback, or suggestions for a story we might have missed. Subscribe to us in print or follow us online. Student newspapers are in danger, and while The Purple has been able to continue a long tradition dating back to 1892, we’re never 100 percent certain about what challenges the next semester will bring.

We’re joining the call to #SaveStudentNewsrooms, and we urge you to do the same, no matter where you’re reading from. In fact, support journalism in every form. If you take it for granted, it might just disappear.

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