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College journalism important element of campus environment

You may only be reading this because you paused on your way to the crossword. You may only be reading this because you’re bored in class. You may be reading this because you read every word of this paper every single Friday. Regardless, the important thing is you’re reading. On some college campuses, that’s a luxury that has faded away and disappeared entirely.

For those of us who work at this paper, we spend a decent portion of our midweeks reporting, writing and crafting it. Every line, every story, every photograph has to be planned and placed. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. We can’t easily take a sick day, or take it easy during weeks when we have exams. We have to balance the class papers we’re assigned with the one that we create, and frankly, that’s a task that can be downright grueling. But it’s a kind of labor that some college journalists have had to lose, or worse – never got to experience at all.

A friend of mine is someone, I believe, on this earth to become a renowned journalist. She was born in the Middle East and is deeply passionate about foreign affairs. She could spend hours discussing the value of a richly diverse, well-balanced media, and she reveled in her work at the student newspaper at another university. In fact, she was up to be the editor-in-chief her senior year. But the paper collapsed before she ever got the chance.

In high school, she and I worked together as co-editors of the opinions section for the student newspaper. I was there mostly because they needed another student to help edit and she persuaded me, with the promise of pizza nights, to join. But by the end of the year I knew I wanted to major in journalism, and I owe that decision in part to her spirit and enthusiasm for the civic possibilities within the world of media.

I remember calling her one day last year, flushed and stressed after a meeting. I had a long night of homework ahead of me, stories to write, and a full load of work and class the next day. I vented to her about the claustrophobia of stress I felt, and at times, the frustration. “I can’t do it,” I remember telling her. “I don’t know how to do this for another two years.”

She was quiet for a while, and then confessed to me that the newspaper at her school was facing some dire times. In fact, because they were unable to pay the bills, they would be shutting down.

“It doesn’t matter whether one person or 2,000 people read your paper,” she said. “What matters is that they have the option to do so.”

And she was right. A student newspaper is one of the most valuable forums on a college campus. There, anyone can be heard, whether it’s through reporting, comments online or letters to the editor. Anyone can read it, from other students to the president of the university. And it’s a printed, permanent document reflecting the legacy of the school in that one issue. It’s a snapshot of campus life that my friend’s university no longer has. And it is, and always will be, a collection of the most worthwhile time spent in the portfolio of my college career.


Heather is a senior journalism major from Schaumburg. She is the Scout editor.

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