Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Editorial: Why Supporting Student Journalism Matters

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On Support Student Journalism Day, the New University joins dozens of campus publications nationwide in declaring the profound importance of independent student newspapers and asking our readers for support amid heavy cuts to funding and resources. This struggle is especially acute for the New University, as we prepare to undertake an unprecedented transition next year, becoming an all-digital publication and eliminating print for the first time in our 50-year history.

Since 1965, as UC Irvine’s official and only student newspaper, the New University has provided consistent reporting on campus government and administrators, local politics, protests, events, and student features that would otherwise go uncovered. Our newspaper provides a voice for students, demands accountability from campus leaders, and documents UCI’s history as it unfolds. New University alumni have made careers in newsrooms worldwide, including at The Washington Post, NBC Asian America, National Public Radio and The New York Times. Our all-student staff has worked for decades to keep the UCI community informed, but an increasing lack of support for local journalism is jeopardizing our ability to keep operations afloat.

Today, dozens of student papers nationwide have published editorials about their hemorrhaging newsrooms. At the New University, we are sad to report that our newsroom has scarcely any resources left to hemorrhage. For the past several years, we have run on the dedication and resourcefulness of our student staff alone. We have no functioning cameras left in our newsroom; our photographers must use their own or borrow them from the campus library. Over the past decade, we have drastically reduced the size of our staff, cut our print circulation from 10,000 to 3,000, and slashed the size of our weekly print edition from over 60 pages to about 12. Our financial stability has steadily deteriorated due to loss of print advertising revenue, and despite efforts to revive it, today’s challenging media landscape has forced us to cut more resources each year.

The New University has long remained independent from ASUCI and UCI administration in an effort to prevent conflicts of interest, but this independence means that we must rely instead on support from our readership base — UCI students. Last spring, we ran a student fee referendum, asking undergraduates for $3 per quarter in order to maintain our newsroom operations. Although a majority of UCI students voted in support of the referendum, it did not secure the 60 percent of votes necessary for approval. As a result, next year, for the first time in half a century, the New University will cease print publication and become an online-only news source. This is a necessary transition, as we no longer have the funding to continue our traditional print operations, but we hope that with its challenges will come innovations, creative approaches to storytelling, and the same journalistic rigor toward which the New University has always strived.

Today, we join student newsrooms nationwide to insist that campus journalism matters — perhaps now more than ever. With the support of our readers and the UCI community, and with renewed recognition of the importance of student publications, we hope to navigate the changes ahead for the New University and continue our rich tradition of independent, investigative reporting long into the future.

— Megan Cole, New University Editor in Chief 2016-18