Editorial independence is at the heart of what a student newspaper should be. Student publications should give their staff the ability to independently publish stories without the oversight of university staff, allowing them to make their own decisions regarding the paper.
Student publication is a pillar to media education that universities should respect, and they should be allowed editorial independence without interference.
Texas A&M President M. Kathryn Banks has demanded that the student newspaper, “The Battalion”, stop printing physical papers immediately and move to an all digital platform.
The decision to do so was made entirely by Texas A&M leadership staff, with no discussion with the newspaper’s student staff or any clear explanation.
Following the announcement, the university reversed course and allowed the paper to continue printing through the end of the current semester, but the change has not sat well with students and has led to protests.
While the decision to shift to an all digital platform for a student newspaper is a completely viable route to take, that kind of decision is for the newspaper staff to make. A school cannot claim to offer editorial independence to its student media and also make large scale decisions about the media for them. If leadership can make these kinds of changes to the paper without consulting the staff, then the idea that those students can confidently publish the material that they see fit also comes into question.
Texas A&M leadership has overstepped their boundaries within student media at the cost of their student body.
College newspapers are a valuable asset to students who study journalism, public relations and many other media majors and deserve to be treated with respect.
They offer an outlet for students to build a portfolio of official work that they have done while also offering necessary learning experiences for those who may want to pursue a career in media.
Having a student newspaper is not just beneficial to the students on staff, it is beneficial to the student body as a whole. However if student media is not given the independence that publications must have, then that value is wrongly taken away.