Big media should not quell independent voice of student media

Student media outlets across the country need to pay attention and rise to support a comrade in Colorado.

Last week it was announced that media-conglomerate Gannett is in talks with Colorado State University to work out a partnership with Gannett’s Fort Collins Coloradoan and the 5-day-a-week CSU Rocky Mountain Collegian.

This presents a scary proposition for student media nation wide because it brings into question how the face of student newspapers could be altered.

Student news outlets are designed to be independent voices for the campuses they serve. Having corporate management, which is one of the possibilities currently being talked about for The Collegian, would destroy the nature of the student-news industry.

How can a campus be properly covered and the voice of the students be adequately represented when a corporate bottom-line dictates the entire operation from afar?

The Collegian’s editor-in-chief, J. David McSwane, has publicly opposed the possible Gannett acquisition.

However, some Collegian readers have voiced opinions that McSwane is the reason for CSU giving Gannett the time of day and considering the proposition before them.

In comments to Collegian stories on the topic, parents and students alike have chimed in, and some say McSwane’s decision to allow the “Taser This . . . F— BUSH” editorial to run last September is pushing the university to unload a potential liability in the independent and uncensored voice of CSU.

(I wrote that he should have been fired. He wasn’t fired, which I wrote about as well.)

McSwane could not be reached via telephone for comment.

Gannett, which publishes USA Today, is the largest newspaper publisher in the United States. The company currently operates student newspapers at Florida State University and the University of Central Florida.

Melissa Heyboer, editor-in-chief of the 3-day-a-week UCF newspaper, said being managed by a Gannett newspaper is a positive attribute. She said nothing has changed in the way of day-to-day operations, and she said she believes being a member of a media corporation is good because it can give more attention and credence to what her paper publishes.

Historically, however, when a media conglomerate envelopes smaller news outlets, the quality and content of the smaller outlet changes in order to meet the monetary demands outlined by the larger company.

Fewer local stories and faces often result when such takeovers happen, and newsroom employees see jobs disappear in favor of syndication and wire services used to fill the news spaces.

So how would this translate to a college campus and learning environment?


Campus news coverage would be incomplete and filtered through the corporate cycle in which the bottom line, not journalistic education, is the most important factor.

Though an official statement has not been made, it has been speculated a prime reason such actions would be taken on the part of Gannett is to increase advertising revenue because a college campus is a targeted audience.

Such conjecture may prove to be false, but Gannett must have something to gain. Otherwise, why would they propose such an idea?

If this happens to The Collegian, no longer would it be a campus newspaper. It would be the media company’s special edition dedicated to a college campus.

Such a distinction might not be a huge difference to some, but the newspaper’s content would no longer accurately represent the college climate because a media company cannot understand that climate like college students living in it can.

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About toddvogts 808 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, MJE, is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, among others. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at or via his website at


  1. Gannet has a USA Today Collegiate Readership Program that has been cleverly marketed to colleges and universities across the country as a way to enlighten our students and improve the journalism skills of the campus newspaper writers.

    Here is the bottom line- This USA Today program is nothing more than a
    surreptitious way to curry favor with students and administrators under the guise of providing a valuable educational service to our community. Make no mistake about it. The goal of the USA Today readership program is not to enlighten our students and broaden their perspectives as they would have you believe. Their sneaky plan involves bringing USA Today and usually the New York Times on campus along with the local Gannett metropolitan newspaper- all free of charge to the students but paid for by the college administration. That way they can count all Gannett newspapers on campus as paid circulation and justify ad rate increases. The typical metropolitan newspaper is written on an 8th grade reading level. Is that the kind of education and enlightenment that our students can look forward too?

    A few days after the local Gannett paper and two national papers are made available for free in nice shiny racks on the campus, the multitude of ad reps for the local Gannett paper will be calling on every local business within a 10-mile radius of the campus and they will of course call EVERY national advertiser that has used the college paper in the last 5 years. They will offer the college newspaper ad customers a column inch rate that the college paper can’t possibly match. They will do this long enough to destroy the advertising revenue of the college paper. This is how Gannett gobbles up the competition.

    “Citizen Kane” is often considered by movie critics to be the best
    >movie EVER PRODUCED.

    “Citizen Kane” is a 1941 mystery/drama film. Released by RKO Pictures,
    it was the first feature film directed by Orson Welles. The story
    traces the life and career of Charles Foster Kane, a man whose career
    in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but
    gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power.”- Wikipedia

    It supposedly centers around the life of William Randolph Hearst, the
    undisputed giant in the newspaper industry in the early 1900’s. He
    tried everything he could to ban the movie from reaching the theaters
    and almost succeeded. If you want to see what corporate greed in the
    newspaper industry looks like, watch the movie.

    But don’t worry. When all looks lost, Gannett will come to the rescue and buy out the college newspaper. By that time, half the students have already been laid off because the decrease in ad revenue has necessitated drastic measures. No problem- except that the students that are left now work for a huge multimedia conglomerate and they can kiss goodbye the editorial freedom they have taken for granted.

    Once the students start working for Gannett, don’t say something that Gannett does not agree with in the college paper, especially when it comes to politics. Study Gannett’s political mindset and commit it to memory or risk being shown the door. Gannett knows how the game is played. Gannett has already bought an independent college newspaper in Florida and is about to buy another student newspaper in Colorado. This is just the beginning. The alarming fact is that Gannett has duped students and their administrators into thinking that their motives are purely altruistic. That should insult the collective intelligence of our future leaders.

    The student newspaper, the last bastion of true freedom of expression in the print media, is slowly being destroyed by a modern day Citizen Kane.

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