As student journalists, we know why student journalism matters to us. But now, we’re here to tell you why student journalism should matter to you.
Last week, the student newspaper at Arizona State University (ASU) broke the news that U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker resigned. The State Press, an independent student-run publication at ASU, published the article just after 10 p.m. Friday night, only to be followed by major powerhouses such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
It’s no secret that this is an important story with international implications amid an increasingly complicated saga of President Donald Trump’s presidency. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi broke her streak of resisting her support for impeachment Sept. 24 when she announced an official impeachment inquiry following a whistleblower complaint raising questions about Trump’s handling of international relations.
Trump is accused of asking Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to find incriminating information on a political opponent ahead of the 2020 presidential election. As the nation watched, a student newspaper got ahold of news that would change the trajectory of the impeachment inquiry and Trump’s presidency as a whole.
But why does it matter that it was students who broke this news?
Student journalists around the country are facing obstacles from restrictive administrations hoping to keep student publications on a short leash. This situation is a stark reminder that budding journalists are doing work that matters. As the ASU journalists proved, student reporters can make an impact not only on their campuses and communities, but on the entire country.
Higher education is inherently connected to politics and current events around the world, as illustrated by the news of Volker’s resignation. Not only do student journalists have a responsibility to keep their university communities informed, but the general public beyond the confines of their campuses, as well.
What’s especially shocking and disheartening is that major news outlets failed to give student journalists — the journalists who could work in major newsrooms one day — credit for their hard and important work. The New York Times reported the same news more than an hour after The State Press published its story. Eventually, the New York Times updated the story to represent the fact that ASU student journalists got to the story first — but didn’t mention The State Press until the 25th paragraph. As of publication, the attribution remains in the 25th paragraph.
Professional journalists have a responsibility to support other journalists when important work is being done — especially when those other journalists are students. It’s a tough profession with countless critics, and failing to give credit where credit is due will only make it harder for all journalists.
More locally, The Phoenix has also been responsible for breaking important news. In the spring of 2016, The Phoenix reported on accusations of player mistreatment by then-women’s basketball coach Sheryl Swoopes after 10 of the 13 players on the roster decided to leave the team.
The university started an investigation and Swoopes, who was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame prior to The Phoenix’s report, left the program in July 2016. When the Chicago Tribune reported on the situation, it credited The Phoenix for the initial reporting. On the national level, former Phoenix sports editors Madeline Kenney and Nader Issa, who broke the story, went on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” to talk about the allegations against Swoopes.
If these examples aren’t enough proof that student journalism matters and should be protected, there are countless examples of student-run publications as the only outlet for students to get important, impactful, irreplaceable information about their universities.
It shouldn’t take an international story like this to prove why student journalism matters. Student journalists around the country break news on important campus events every single day. A college campus functions much like a small city, and student newspapers function to hold administrations accountable and inform students. That responsibility should be celebrated and protected.
Kudos to you, ASU journalists — your work matters.