As college newspapers close, student media literacy suffers
I recently learned that San Antonio College’s student newspaper, The Ranger, will be retired in December, a tragedy not only for its staff and the community college of that city, but also as a further weakening of the bulwarks of accuracy and truth.
My interest is personal. My journalistic career, spanning over 50 years, began as a student reporter at The Ranger. My first attempts at reporting appeared in print in The Ranger. By the time I showed up, The Ranger was halfway through its 95-year history.
Like The Foghorn, the campus newspaper of our own Del Mar College, The Ranger reports on campus activities, interviews college officials and students, and serves as a bulletin board. The Ranger, like many small and large town newspapers, has difficulty keeping up with its readers as they migrate to the Internet. The closure of the classes due to COVID was fatal.
School newspapers, whether high school, community college or university, fulfill an important academic function at best: They help (or should) help students to distinguish between disinformation and truth, between fluff and facts.
A student reporter who only takes the handout of the official version is just a typist. The reporter asking the question and the wrap-up of the wrap-up is on the way to the truth. This search for the truth is certainly a purpose of higher education.
Officials from San Antonio College have told the San Antonio media that they have no plans to give up journalism as an undergraduate course. But many colleges do, perhaps because busy student newspapers can be a thorn in the side of college bureaucrats. Sting, thorns, sting.
The demise of a student newspaper may seem like a minor matter. Just one more cut at a time when so much is being cut for so-called efficiency gains, redundancies, savings or the tried and tested “rationalization”. You ask for follow-up questions. Where are the facts?
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two investigative journalists, Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov from Russia, for promoting freedom of expression. “I think the Nobel Committee,” said Ressa, “insisted that one cannot have truth without facts. Without truth, one cannot have trust. Without all of these things there is no functioning democracy … “
Student journalists are seekers of truth in training.
Nick Jimenez served for over 40 years as a reporter, city editor, editorial pages editor and editor emeritus for editorial pages for Caller-Times.