Student journalism is a necessity—and it’s in danger

Graphic by Maria Nevada/the Gateway

Will Patterson
Opinion Editor

Student journalism is in danger. It’s a well-known fact that newspapers across the country have suffered in the past decade—and student newspapers are no exception. The world is changing and so must we. 

But the need for student journalism has not diminished. 

I have served the Gateway as a contributor, the arts and entertainment editor and—for the past year—the opinion editor. For all four years of my college career, the Gateway has been a way to hone my skills as a budding journalist and as a way to express my opinions.  

What I fear many students and our readers might take for granted, is the Gateway’s status as an independent student newspaper. Essentially, the university cannot tell us what we may or may not publish. On that same note, we are also held to same legal standards and expectations placed on professional newspapers. 

We were able to shine a light on some of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) greatest accomplishments and fantastic students. We were able to report critically and thoroughly on topics that did not always present the university in a positive manner. As the opinion editor, I was thrilled to help facilitate a diverse presentation of ideas and beliefs on our society and political sphere. 

Writing for the Gateway has been essential to the steps I have made in becoming a professional journalist. My writing samples and experience are the basis for getting editorial work, freelance jobs and admittance into graduate school. 

We were masters of our own destinies. Unbound by restrictive ownership or monetary incentives, the Gateway provides student writers a taste of real, critical journalism. 

Student journalists over the past few years have had the pleasure of seeing President Donald Trump label us as “enemies of the American people.” The industry has entered the cross-hairs of those seeking control of the nation’s political narrative. University newspapers give students beginning their journalism careers a safe place to learn and explore. At the same time, writing for a student newspaper prepares you for the reality of professional journalism. 

All these reasons point towards an importance for student journalism. Campuses should be training grounds for the journalists of tomorrow. 

Every year the student government election gives students a chance to vote whether or not to continue allocating student funds to the Gateway. This year, the final vote tallied with 962 votes in favor of funding and 579 against funding.  I was thrilled a majority of students voted in favor of continuing funding, but I am also concerned with how many students voted against us. 

My life was quite literally changed when I first saw my byline in print. I hope that UNO continues to give future student journalists that same experience. 

Journalism students are repeatedly taught that most of our readers will not make it to the end of our articles. For that very reason, we put the most compelling and interesting parts at the beginning. 

So, to the readers who have made it to the end of this article and our readers that have consistently supported the Gateway: thank you. A publication without an audience is no publication at all. 

And that’s a wrap on my student newspaper career.