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.
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.