EDITORIAL BOARD: One year later, we are still fighting to #SaveStudentNewsrooms

Daily Trojan file illustration

It was 7:13 a.m. when the news broke.

Most of us were sleeping in — after all, spring break had just started — but we woke up to notifications of what would become known as Operation Varsity Blues, the latest and largest scandal to hit USC.

Since that day, the Daily Trojan has pulled together a series of follow-ups to the college admissions bribery scheme. Out of our 25 editors, only two news editors were on campus for spring break to report. As full-time students, we all looked forward to savoring our week-long break from academics and journalism.

But news never stops — and neither do we.

Today marks the anniversary of #SaveStudentNewsrooms. A year ago, the Daily Campus of Southern Methodist University lost its independence after being forced into re-affiliation with the university due to financial issues. In response, student newsrooms across the nation — Daily Trojan included — stood in solidarity to stress the importance of independent student journalism.  

But one year later, the obstacles we face as student journalists — from the lack of financial support to undervaluation from the communities we serve — still persist. Editors of the Daily Bruin went on strike April 9 after the ASUCLA Communications Board voted to appoint an editor-in-chief against the staff’s recommendation. Days before, the University of Arizona forced the Daily Wildcat out of its newsroom without the staff’s input or an adequate relocation plan. Student newspapers are still walking on eggshells, unsure about where their futures stand, publishing story after story with little support from their own universities.

Here at the Daily Trojan, the past year has been challenging to say the least. We have covered breaking news, profiled notable campus figures and reported on sports games on top of editing stories and designing layouts nightly. Following a seemingly endless onslaught of revelations that USC was mired in the center of national scandals — chief among them the decades of sexual abuse at the hands of former campus gynecologist George Tyndall, the lengthy presidential search following C. L. Max Nikias’ untimely resignation and the recent college admissions bribery scheme — we found ourselves sending the finished paper to print at 2 a.m. on most nights. And the next day, we’d come back to the newsroom in Student Union 421 and do it all over again.

But this all came at a cost: Daily Trojan is one of the last student-run college newspapers in the nation that publishes five days a week. In addition to attending lectures, studying for midterms and working part-time jobs and internships — after all, we are here as students first and foremost — our editors began to experience burnout given the 40-plus hours we spend laboring away in the newsroom every week. Holding USC accountable and sharing student voices is a full-time job, and one that we have repeatedly demonstrated that we are prepared to undertake at the cost of our own well-being.

This year, our reporting has excelled where our University has faltered. In today’s issue alone, we published four in-depth features across three sections as well as regular updates on ongoing campus events and issues. Without the Daily Trojan, the USC community would still be in the dark about the demographics of the Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee members, about the countless culinary hidden gems nestled throughout South L.A., about insights into the volatile administrative changes that followed the 2018 football season and about how the University attempted to censor student voices by revoking its promise of transparency and banning one of our reporters from an open presidential search forum.

The Daily Trojan represents the pulse of USC. In putting a tangible product out on newsstands daily, we set the tone for the day, elucidating key administrative decisions and policy changes made behind closed doors as well as celebrating the achievements of students and faculty. Without the Daily Trojan, the USC community would not have a reliable source to turn to for all the facets of the Trojan experience — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now more than ever, as the University undergoes a monumental leadership transition and recovers from the fallout of innumerable scandals and lawsuits, the community needs an unbiased and trustworthy source of information as well as a watchdog to keep the administration’s actions in check. Now more than ever, as the free press is villainized daily and college newspapers across the country are unjustly stripped of their value and resources, we need to band together. We hope you will join us in the fight to #SaveStudentNewsrooms.