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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: For sale by president?

    Media consolidation is a touchy subject among journalists. Buyouts and cost-cutting measures force the press into the ugly realization that their duty to serve the public is supported by a necessity to perform in the marketplace. The ethical and personal difficulty of reporting on massive changes to one’s own livelihood is a challenge, and journalists are defensive about their role as public servants – see the clamor over Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of The Wall Street Journal last year, or last week’s resignation of the Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Times for resisting downsizing. As newspapers compete with more and more technological tools for fewer and fewer eyes, buyouts and budget cuts have grown more frequent. Now, this troubling trend is encroaching on the world of college journalism.

    Last week, The Associated Press reported that Colorado State University is considering a “”strategic partnership”” between the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the university’s student newspaper, and Gannett Company, the largest media holding company in the United States by circulation and the owner of big-name papers like USA Today, the Detroit Free Press and Arizona’s own Arizona Republic and Tucson Citizen.

    The Collegian’s college-age market and lucrative advertisement revenues are reason enough for Gannett to be interested. But there may be more to the proposal than economics. Last semester, CSU was embroiled in controversy over a provocative four-word editorial that simply read “”Taser this … Fuck Bush.”” In the aftermath, CSU President Larry Penley issued a statement expressing disappointment “”that the Collegian’s recent editorial choices do not reflect the expectations we have of our student journalists.”” The paper – and the university – weathered a few weeks of embarrassing media coverage last semester, and last week Penley initiated the buyout discussion with Gannett. Collegian editors fear that the talks are retribution for their editorial choices – and it’s hard to dismiss them as coincidence.

    Although pronounced opposition from students means a takeover is unlikely, this wouldn’t be Gannett’s first foray into buying student newspapers. In 2006, they bought two in Florida: Central Florida Future, from the University of Central Florida, and FSView & Florida Flambeau, published at Florida State University. The difference? Those papers were already independently published, private publications.

    The Collegian, like the Wildcat, is different. The Wildcat is independent and supported by our own ad revenue, but although the UA has no say in what we publish, we’re still part of Arizona Student Media. At CSU, things are similar – the Collegian is financially and institutionally independent, but still answers to a media board. Both our papers are staffed, written, designed and managed entirely by students. We work day-in and day-out to bring you timely, incisive news – and that’s a difficult job.

    College newspapers like the Collegian and the Wildcat create more value than the millions in ad revenue they bring in (and which are most important to a conglomerate like Gannett). They give students real-world experience in writing, publishing and creating a newspaper that simply isn’t available anywhere else. That’s not to say we don’t make mistakes – the Wildcat and the Collegian have both engendered our fair share of controversy – but the students who work here learn valuable lessons and gain unparalleled hands-on experience. Bringing in “”grown-ups”” to run things for us – or even to own us and stay out of the way – would fundamentally alter the spirit and practice of student journalism.

    Media mergers and consolidations are a necessary evil in the world of private publications. For college newspapers, they are a sinister trend with the potential to deny thousands of students an enormously valuable experience. We hope CSU’s offer to Gannett is canned – and we hope you’ll remember that we at the Wildcat won’t be bought any time soon.

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