On April 25, more than 100 student publications are set to publish editorials about the difficulty of maintaining independence and the struggles that come with it.
Organized by the University of Florida’s student newspaper The Alligator, Save Student Newsrooms is a day of action meant to highlight the challenges that continue to plague student publications around the nation. Recently, the University of North Alabama fired a student adviser after the publication of a story criticizing the administration — and it’s not a singular occurrence. Student publications at Baylor University, Colorado State University and the University of South Carolina have all disintegrated following articles that discussed issues at their schools. The disappearance of these publications is frightening, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the circumstances, good and bad, that surround Pipe Dream’s existence. We also want to make clear that we stand in solidarity with all student newspapers at colleges and universities across the country.
The Editorial Board is no stranger to the hardships that so many student publications are prone to, but we’d first like to recognize the fortunate circumstances that allow us to continue giving a platform to student voices and reporting on local events to BU’s campus. To start, student newspapers have an imperative job: informing their campus communities and serving as a check on the administration. As a completely student-run, independently funded publication, we are free to criticize actions — or the lack thereof — taken by the University and conduct investigations that administrators probably wouldn’t be too happy about. We are able to amplify student voices, both by having only student writers and by covering student-led events and demonstrations. Pipe Dream was often the first on the ground during major campus moments in the past couple of years, with local news outlets often following our coverage to come up with their stories. Pipe Dream has been very fortunate to have been able to maintain our twice-weekly publication, with consistent advertisers providing us with a steady stream of revenue to sustain the paper. We are lucky to make enough money to provide stipends to our staff members.
We recognize, however, the ways in which Pipe Dream falls short. Due to the decline of print publications, maintaining scheduled, twice-weekly print issues is no easy task, and with last year’s closing of our local printing press, it’s gotten harder. For a while, we were unsure about the future of Pipe Dream and had to go on a search for a new printing press. The printer we now use is four hours away, which puts greater pressure on staff to meet deadlines, on the press to print in a timely manner and on the delivery drivers who come all this way. As a result, our newspaper has been delivered late on multiple occasions, leaving our staff scrambling to quickly distribute the day’s paper. It has also been a challenge transitioning from advertising primarily in print to pursuing online modes of advertisement. Aside from logistical issues, a big roadblock for student journalism at BU is the fact that there is no journalism major. Besides a handful of rhetoric courses, students who wish to pursue journalism have few options to do so outside of joining a campus publication. Somebody interested in studying journalism could create their own major through BU’s individualized major program, but this is still lacking in resources, and if you approach the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development about journalism career advice, they don’t have many resources to offer.
All in all, it’s tough to keep a newspaper going, and even harder to start one. The numerous cases of student-run publications falling to their school’s administrations is a reason to remind ourselves why we do what we do, and how fortunate we are to do it. Independent, student-run publications are essential to preserving and promoting the voices of all students everywhere, and in solidarity with all the college newspapers around the nation, we’ll continue to fight for the freedom to publish in the best interests of the students we strive to represent.