Student newspapers are responsible for two basic things: being a voice for students on campus and holding our University accountable.
A week before classes began last August, our editorial staff read through a readership survey about the DA taken last summer. The results were humbling. Hardly anyone read us, nobody knew who we were and those that did read us didn’t know we were independent from the University.
Even better, almost all of our editorial staff had never had a leadership position before. I had only worked at the DA for one year as a reporter, and now I was in charge of a whole news team.
We needed a culture change, and our staff recognized that. We were all in this together, and this year, we weren’t going to half-ass it.
I’m very proud of the work our staff did this year. But I’m happier that we put the spotlight back on the importance of student journalism.
One thing I’ve found is that a lot of people just don’t understand student journalism.
“Can I talk to your editor?”
“Can your editor check my quotes?”
“Why are you making the University look bad when you’re a part of them?”
First off, we run the show; there’s no “adult” in the room telling us what to do.
We work other jobs. We’re involved in Greek life. We’re athletes on WVU sports teams. We’re involved elsewhere than here; most importantly, we’re students too. We make mistakes, but it’s our job to own them.
Student journalism is especially important in a city like Morgantown, where there is hardly any coverage of WVU and the day-in and day-outs of it. The core role of student journalists is to tell the stories you won’t hear anywhere else.
This year, we reported on WVU scrapping funding for a child care program for low-income student parents. Who’s to say if the program would have came back if we didn’t shine a light on it? But that’s not the point; we did what we were supposed to do: find a story that’s important enough to demand public attention.
That famous David Sills picture throwing the horns down on Texas? You know which one I’m talking about. Our photo editor, Temitayo Adesokan, was the only person in the world to get that shot from that angle.
This year, we published sealed court records. We found that WVU has the highest loan default rate in the Big 12. We were on the ground and in the crowd on the Spruce Street snow day, and our reporting was featured on the TODAY Show and in the Washington Post.
We published photos of a doll with a blackened face that a sorority was briefly suspended for. We covered fraternity disassociation extensively. We were the first media outlet to recognize the IIFC as a legitimate organization. We covered campus carry and its path through the legislature, while also covering how it was impacting students and faculty on campus.
Our sports staff was at every football game, home or away. They missed class to attend midday press conferences. We’re the only newspaper you’re ever going to find golf, gymnastics and swimming coverage in daily.
The point is, you’re not going to find these stories anywhere else, and if you do, they’re not going to be written by students who are going through it with you.
It absolutely made my day when I saw someone reading the DA or when someone brought up an article in class. It was awesome to see scores of sports websites steal Adesokan’s amazing photo; it meant we were doing good things.
So, if you’ve liked what we’ve done this year, please let us know. Just like local journalism, it’s vital that we continue to support student journalism. There is still so much work to be done.