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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Editorial: In support of a free press

In August, student journalists around the country were riveted by a Twitter feed hailing from Athens, Georgia. The student newspaper’s staff walked out after the nonstudent advisers threatened to take control.

The newspaper — The Red and Black — saw a memo draft about the hierarchical changes. The non-student editorial adviser would be elevated to editorial director, overseeing all content before it would be published. The memo listed other guidelines, most disturbingly a mandate to lessen the paper’s “bad” content. According to the memo’s author, “bad” content is “content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.”

Needless to say, we find this to be all kinds of “bad.”

A student publication should provide unbiased news for the greater community, creating a better campus by informing it. This spread of information would be vastly limited under university censorship — a newspaper potentially turned into a sockpuppet.

The California Aggie, like The Red and Black, is a student-run newspaper. We have an advisory board and a professional journalist who critiques our work, but their influence only comes after we publish. If we saw a list of changes similar to The Red and Black memo, we’d strongly consider walking out too.

We’re proud to be part of The Aggie. We are financially independent, with our own students selling advertisements and managing circulation. Many student newspapers require student fees to stay afloat, or have professional, non-student staff handling the business side of publication. Not us.

Of course, having over 100 students creating a newspaper four days a week means there are going to be some mistakes. We’re all learning. Since UC Davis doesn’t have a journalism program, The Aggie truly is the best way for students curious about the field to gain experience. We take the job of training brand new journalists very seriously.

Fortunately, the former editors at The Red and Black and its board resolved things after a few days. The students were hired back and the employee with final say is still the student editor in chief.

We intend to continue informing the public and fostering UC Davis’ young journalists as we have since The California Aggie gained independence in the 1970’s. If you’d like to join our team, we’d like to have you on board — email managing@theaggie.org.

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