Editorial | Student press needs to be unrestricted

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Texas A&M University President M. Katherine Banks is attempting to force the university’s student newspaper, The Battalion, to stop printing weekly print editions after the spring semester and focus solely on online production. Banks hopes to absorb the newspaper into a new Department of Journalism.

Furthermore, The Battalion’s print product is exclusively funded by advertising revenue, and when the student journalists asked the administration how they’d be able to make money without the print edition, they provided no clear solution.

Student journalism is one of the only ways that students can hold their universities accountable. Attacks like these on the independence of student journalism — especially from the university itself — are extremely harmful. Keeping student-run newspapers like The Battalion independent and self-funded helps hold institutions accountable. Texas A&M’s administration should release the reins of the paper.

The Battalion has served its community since 1893. Forcing it to become another university program that’s reliant on the administration for funding makes it unable to be an unbiased source of information.

Additionally, absorbing the paper into the university without an independent funding source might stunt its ability to expose university scandals or wrongdoings and will silence free speech overall. If Texas A&M’s administration is in charge of the funding of the newspaper, the student journalists may feel as though they can’t speak freely or truthfully about campus issues.

As more and more local newspapers are forced to shut down or bought up by hedge funds, student journalism is even more important for informing the community and helping prevent democracy from backsliding. If this free and independent institution becomes silenced by the university, students and faculty will be left unaware of what is truly happening on campus and the community will lose a valuable resource.

While it may seem minor that a student newspaper has to stop printing physical copies, it sets a bad precedent for other student newspapers including The Pitt News. The more oversight the administration of Texas A&M has on The Battalion, the more likely they’ll be able to remove stories they don’t like or take away funding from the newspaper if it publishes something that may make the administration look bad.

Student journalism is the lifeblood of democracy. If it is taken away, we will lose a valuable service. Silencing The Battalion is a larger threat than just to one newspaper at one college. It threatens all student journalists and even has bad implications for the entire country.