Student newspaper too valuable to lose
The Siskiyou — the student newspaper at Southern Oregon University — finds itself fighting for its life once again. This is not a new experience for the student-run publication. The Siskiyou has managed to stay afloat more than once in recent years, each time finding a way to continue to serve its student readers for less money.
If the student leadership of the university fails to find the pittance the publication has requested, they will be doing a great disservice to the student body they purport to represent.
The Siskiyou was founded nearly a century ago. It has provided students regular news reports ever since, with ever-dwindling resources.
In 2012, the paper ceased producing a print edition, switching to online only, a much less expensive option than printing. In 2014, it was on the chopping block until the university made it a credited communications class.
That ended in 2016 when the class was dropped because not enough students signed up for it. But the student editor at the time managed to save it by convincing student government leaders to establish The Siskiyou as a club and provide funding from student fees. Now that revenue stream is threatened as well.
That first year of student funding, the paper was allocated $10,000 from the student activities budget. This year, the staff requested $3,897, but the proposed budget includes no money at all.
Enrollment at SOU is down, meaning there is less money from student fees. But the student government has a budget of $4.2 million a year. The Siskiyou’s request amounts to 0.09% of that. The student body president says $310,000 needs to be cut from the budget. The Siskiyou’s share of that amount is 1.25%.
What do SOU students get for that money? News about their campus, decisions being made that will affect them, and a connection to the university community that will be lost without a student publication.
It was student reporting in The Siskiyou, for instance, that broke the news about body lice being found in the university’s Hannon Library.
The Siskiyou staff get the opportunity to practice real-life techniques that will serve them well even if they don’t pursue careers in journalism. Gathering information, interviewing sources and explaining complex topics clearly and succinctly are skills that can be mastered only by doing them.
SOU dropped its journalism emphasis in 2014, but its communications department still offers courses including public affairs journalism and online journalism, teaching “reporting skills for governmental affairs, basic investigative reporting, public records research and interviewing” among others.
Letting the newspaper lapse when it could be kept going for less than $4,000 does a disservice to the university and its students.