Student-led publications are being killed off by the very administrations that fund them. This is an uncomfortable opinion that I have developed during the last five weeks of my time as editor-in-chief. Of course, I had my suspicions long before now due to the frequent barriers put in place to deter student journalists. While these barriers should be fuel enough to encourage students to fight harder for the truth, it becomes exhausting and deters many from continuing on. This leaves the campus newspapers in ruins with a struggling team incapable of covering major stories. When emails are unanswered, phone calls are ignored, and office visits are postponed; it becomes hard to produce timely, accurate stories with enough detail to do the job.
Another battle comes with the expectation from higher administration that the newspaper should produce positive PR for the university. Anything less than sparkling coverage about positive experiences is frowned upon, thus the reluctance for transparency.
That being said, you are currently reading our first printed edition of The Western Carolinian in nearly four years. I set a goal for myself and my team in the spring of 2021 to bring back our printed editions. I am rather old-school and it is incredibly important to me to keep print-form journalism alive. However, I am not the only one with this opinion. I reached out to multiple community members in Sylva, Cullowhee and Dillsboro to get their opinion on the importance of bringing print back. The consensus was unanimous, printed newspapers are not out of style and there is an audience out there for them. As a university, we are placed in a fairly rural area with the student population being the youngest and most “tech-savvy” residents. Print newspapers break down the “digital barrier” that is often placed on community members who cannot afford or access the internet. The core purpose of journalism is to provide ethical, important information to everyone so that our democracy can be as fair as possible. No one should be deprived of the news simply because they cannot access the internet.
As editor-in-chief, my goal is to keep this newspaper alive. I want to continue to build my team with passionate, hardworking students that share the common interest of preserving our student publication. My hope is that our community, on-campus and off, will support our return to print and offer suggestions for how we can improve. We are continuing to learn and we are working to find our “voice” as a publication again after so many years of being online.
I ask of you, the reader who picked up this paper and gave us another chance, stick with us. With your help, we can keep student media alive.