Why SMU and Other Colleges Need Independent Student Media

Independent student journalism at its best has always posed something of a conundrum for the adults in the room.The goal is for students to learn about journalism and get hands-on experience running the show. But real, robust journalism means uncovering uncomfortable truths and unflattering stories -- and sometimes a very real Scooby-Doo "I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!" ending. It turns out giving kids the tools and training to produce real journalism and then letting those same students loose in their schools produces real journalism.School administrators argue oversight and censorship are needed. They often cite the students' youth and inexperience -- and maybe if really pushed, they'll talk about the fact that they don't want bad press for their campuses. The crux of their arguments is this: Students need adult guidance for their own good and for the school's good.Don't believe them. The single best thing we can do for our students, for our schools and our democratic institutions is to let student media flourish uncensored.I spent from 2007 to 2011 working for and overseeing Southern Methodist University's student newspaper The Daily Campus as a reporter and editor. I was also a student in SMU's journalism department. My classes taught me things like story structures and media ethics, but it was my work at the campus newspaper that truly taught me journalism.Our work at The Daily Campus meant my student peers and I were finding, reporting and writing stories. We were the ones handing out assignments, deciding what made the paper that day and defending our decisions to readers and school officials.We are better journalists for that opportunity. You only have to look at the numerous Daily Campus alumni who have gone on to award-winning news outlets to see how valuable those firsthand experiences in journalism were, whether it was investigating how SMU handled rape cases or figuring out just how much money the athletic department loses each year. We've taken that knowledge with us into our professional careers, serving and making our communities better through rigorous journalism.Our newspaper was better for it too. Put the paper under control of journalism professors and it's liable to turn into a content mill for class assignments. Put it under control of school administrators and it's liable to turn into the university bulletin board. Both outcomes have their merits, but I wouldn't call either finished product a real newspaper.  Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us