The Prodigy, UC Merced’s student-run newspaper, is set to shut down by the end of this summer after its funding request for the coming year was denied by the Associated Students of UC Merced. CC Gillespie, the incoming editor-in-chief of the paper, was recently informed in a meeting with an ASUCM representative that The Prodigy is not listed on next year’s budget release form, according to The Daily Cal.
The control that ASUCM has asserted over the The Prodigy endangers the independence of student voices and the ability to keep UC Merced in check. This isn’t the first recent instance of student governments interfering with the autonomy of campus newspapers. At the beginning of April, members of The Daily Bruin at UCLA went on strike after their choice for next year’s editor-in-chief was overruled by the student government’s Communications Board.
Student journalism is a pillar of university life for a number of reasons. Student-run newspapers keep the university and university-related organizations accountable for their actions. In the last year, reporting from The California Aggie has called attention to a lack of mental health resources on campus and accusations of hazing and misconduct within The California Marching Band. We also provide weekly coverage of the ASUCD Senate meetings, which includes how money is being spent and what legislation the student government chooses to pass.
Campus newspapers ensure that students are informed about what’s happening on and around campus. At The Aggie, our staff of over 100 reporters, photographers, editors and managers work around the clock to provide this information to our readers. On the night of the shooting that resulted in Officer Natalie Corona’s death, for example, our city and campus news editors worked together to release a notice on social media about the active shooter situation, reaching nearly 600 students.
Moreover, none of the UC campuses have undergraduate journalism majors, which means that campus newspapers are one of the few ways that students can gain professional training in the field. Hundreds of students across the UC system work for their campus newspapers as a way of developing journalism skills and building up portfolios in preparation for real-world careers in media. Without on-campus journalism opportunities, we risk limiting the number of Californians pursuing journalism careers post-graduation — a further threat to keeping governments, companies and powerful individuals in check.
Campus newspapers like The Prodigy shouldn’t have to rely on student governments for funding. The Aggie is fortunate to have funding from student fees, which allows us to continue to operate — but it hasn’t always been this way. In 2016, we ran a fee initiative campaign to restore weekly printing after losing our main source of funding from advertising a few years prior. In a couple of years, we may have to go through this process again.
The Editorial Board resonates with The Prodigy’s efforts to sustain its presence on campus and supports its fight to continue publishing stories. We encourage our readers to help #SaveStudentNewsrooms by engaging with student journalism content online, in print or on social media, and recognize that it’s readers who keep this important aspect of university life alive.
Written by: The Editorial Board