Opinion: Student Newspapers are important, Here’s why.
Marvin Walder/The Broadside
“Hello, my name is Marvin Walder, and I’m a photographer and reporter for The Broadside.”
I’ve started many emails and phone calls like this since I started working for The Broadside in the Fall of 2020. As of May 1st, 2021, I’ve posted 29 articles (not including those that are currently in progress) and I’ve contributed photos to other articles and social media posts. My most viewed story is about the Les Schwab Amphitheater construction, which is currently sitting at 2465 page views. Overall, my stories typically range from 500-1000 page views on average, which I’m very thankful for. I’m very happy that there are people in the community that take the time to read our articles, and hopefully, use the things we share to better the community and their own lives.
However, figures such as views or number of articles are not what makes a student newspaper important.
Due to the widespread use of social media, it’s easy to get caught up on views and likes. While they are useful quantitative figures that estimate the reach of your posts and articles, they’re not everything. What I believe to be much more important, and what I think is a core focus of journalism, is the qualitative impact of the story you’re telling. The positive impact of an article that reaches 100 local people and informs them or gets them talking about something important in their lives, far outweighs that of an article that’s glossed over by 1000 anonymous internet users. As a small and local newspaper, we obviously don’t get the same amount of views that a larger news outlet would. However, due to being small and local, we can bring very specific and important information to those in our community that need it.
Here’s another way of looking at it, with an example.
One recurring type of story that I have done is a local business spotlight, where I find an interesting business in town and interview a manager/owner about it. I’ve featured places like Gerg’s Grill, Cravin’s Candy Emporium, The High Desert Museum, Alpenglow Dental, The Sun Mountain Fun Center, and most recently D’s Hobbies. Being from a small local newspaper allows me to really go into detail about how these businesses interact with the local community, and what’s been helping or hurting them. Furthermore, since our readers are locals, they likely know and interact with these businesses as well. This situation allows me, as a journalist, to try and bridge that gap between the two.
For example, I did this in the Greg’s Grill article by showing what restaurants were struggling with in regards to COVID-19, and how locals could support them by utilizing their gift card and takeout options. This kind of local focus can also apply to articles informing people about road work, nice parks, or changing covid guidelines. The number of views will be restricted to the smaller local audience, but it’s still important, because it’s specific information that is supposed to help exactly those people in our community. If a student newspaper such as The Broadside can help support a local businesses, or improve a person’s day with a useful piece of information, I’d consider it a worthy endeavor.
All of this is good and all, but why are student newspapers sometimes still shut down?
Finances, and a perceived lack of results. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve already tried explaining why there’s a lot more to what student newspapers produce than just views. But finance decisions are a lot easier to explain.
In 2018, COCC shut down The Broadside. COCC came to this decision because there was a lack of interest in the paper, and certain elements such as print newspapers proved to not be viable financially. Since then, The Broadside has thankfully been restarted in a restructured and online format. However, COCC still closely monitors The Broadside’s performance to see if it’s worthwhile to keep it running. As a business major myself, I completely understand the concern from COCC’s standpoint. COCC is a huge organization balancing its finances with the needs of thousands of students and employees. I personally think that restarting The Broadside in an online format was completely the right move, as it completely eliminates the cost and possible waste of printing papers, while also making articles easier to access and share for users. Many larger news sources are also transitioning online for the same reasons. In the new format, expenses associated with The Broadside are likely similar to those of a club rather than a whole separate business.
And it seems that this strategy has proven to be successful, due to the recent announcement that COCC has decided to allow The Broadside to continue to operate.
And with those costs that are left, I think we may be approaching them incorrectly.
Yes, The Broadside can create expenses through the need for faculty to run it. However, The Broadside can partially support itself through revenue streams such as advertising. Additionally, The Broadside operates as an actual journalism course and part-time employment for students who partake in it. So it contributes to the actual curriculum of classes that COCC provides.
This loops back to why I think just judging if a student newspaper is worth keeping open by something as linear as article views might be short-sighted. The newspaper has other major components such as the teaching/classroom elements and the fact that it provides career options exploration for students. There have been previous students such as Scott Greenstone who have launched successful careers in journalism after discovering a passion for it at The Broadside. Providing these kinds of options for exploration and learning is one of the major draws of a community college, and losing any part of that wonderful opportunity would be unfair to future students.
Okay, so it can benefit the community and provide more class and career options to students if run in a financially viable manner. But what makes it special?
This last part is about my experience with The Broadside, and what it’s done for me as a student.
I joined The Broadside because I wanted a place where I could utilize my photography in a professional role. And even though I plan on doing photography and filmmaking rather than journalism, The Broadside became a place where I could do that. I’ve gained a ton of technical experience and professional connections through my work at The Broadside, and it’s done more for me career-wise than many other classes. I really cannot understate the appreciation that I have for the opportunity to utilize my passion for photography in a professional setting.
The Broadside has done a lot for me personally as well. When the pandemic shut everything down, I, like many I imagine, found myself very depressed. Everything I enjoyed kind of just went away, and I found myself just grinding through online classes at home all day. It really took me a while to get back into a rhythm, but I still just lacked enthusiasm for things. The Broadside became something that really rekindled my drive to get out there and create something, and it encouraged me to re-connect with the community during a time of hardship. I got to see how individuals and businesses I knew had fared during the pandemic, and through seeing that, it gave me new ideas and hope for myself as well. As each article was published, I gained more confidence in myself and the work I was doing, and that allowed me to ask tough questions and share other people’s stories. All of these parts contributed to an amazingly positive experience at The Broadside, and after seeing what it could do for a student like me, I want that opportunity to be open for other students too. That’s why I think student newspapers are important.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end!
Thank you to the students and staff of The Broadside for contributing to this awesome student newspaper, and making all of my great experiences possible! And thank you reader, because if you’ve made it all the way here, it means that you are a part of the dedicated readers that make this student newspaper worth it. I hope that you’ve gained something from reading this, and that you might decide to check in to see some of the future stories that students are putting together for you.