Editorial: Subscribe here: The importance of college journalism

Editorial Board

There are plenty of comments about The Observer that circulate around campus on a regular basis. Some are valid critiques—many of which we are trying to address—and then there are baseless ones which usually are merely a result of ignorance to the editing process or importance of local journalism. We are always working to improve the editing and fact-checking process to ensure a high level of quality and integrity in all our pieces. Some of our editors stay up into the early hours of Thursday morning in order to finalize articles, illustrations and design. All of this is done in dedication to college journalism.  

College journalism, like local journalism, is critical to informing communities and holding administrators and executives accountable. Furthermore, college journalism offers invaluable experience to the student journalists, editors and business managers who will go on to make up local, national and international news sources. 

We can look at what has happened just this week in order to illustrate the importance of newspapers. The New York Times released a scathing analysis of Trump’s income taxes since he entered office and shockingly, much like every other billionaire and corporation, he paid only $750—less than many of us have paid as college students. Multiple newspapers released coronavirus updates, as there have officially been 1 million COVID-19-related deaths worldwide (without even considering deaths caused secondary to the pandemic). The Guardian is doing a countdown series to the presidential election in the context of the Paris Agreement and climate change. And locally, the Plain Dealer has written pieces about Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic hosting the debate, including Cleveland Clinic’s promise to reimburse the city of Cleveland for the costs of hundreds of thousands of hours of police overtime. 

 This summary only skims the surface of a week in the life of professional journalism. While college journalism may not break national headlines as frequently, it is nevertheless critical to our campus and local communities. 

Our News section has informed students of Undergraduate Student Government elections and referenda, analyzed increases in tuition costs and interviewed administrators for more information on decisions and shared experiences of students in different circumstances, including during the pandemic. 

Our Arts & Entertainment section reviews films, music and local events, offering critiques, support and advice for navigating media and its intersection with political and social decisions. For example, what should we make of the new Mulan rendition, which received praise for its all-Asian cast, but has been criticized for the main actress’ support of Hong Kong police and for filming in concentration camps holding Uighurs?

In Opinion, students, each with their own experiences and perspectives, respond to a myriad of issues, from the death penalty to the closure of local businesses or addressing mental health. Columnists have illustrated problems in our campus, local, state, national and global communities, and proposed tangible actions or solutions.  

And finally, our Sports section keeps students up to date on campus sporting events, as well as matches around the world. However, as the pandemic has largely disrupted these events, Sports has briefly started addressing other components, such as the NBA boycott and how other professional teams are adapting to pandemic restrictions. 

Each of our sections is uniquely positioned to address different concerns or highlight events and experiences. We work on behalf of students, justice and democracy. For as the Washington Post’s motto says it best, “Democracy dies in darkness.” 

College journalists are critical to shining a light on the needs and concerns of students and the community, as well as holding administrators accountable. The latter can be seen in recent pieces written about sexual assault on campus, divesting from the fossil fuel industry, racial tokenism in brochures and students’ needs both domestically and abroad upon the outbreak of COVID-19. 

Without student journalism, not only would the campus community be more ill-informed, but the university would be able to act with little oversight from students. Every relationship is two-way, including that between an institution and its constituents. While this might not be a proportionate—or even at times, healthy—relationship, it nonetheless exists. As such, it is critical not only that we hear what the administration has to say about issues and decisions, but that they, too, hear our voice.