EDITORIAL: Spot the ethical dilemma in our funding

#SaveStudentNewsrooms

At issue: SGA has overseen the Beacon’s budget since 2011

Our take: For us to progress, we need our funding guaranteed

Today, college newspapers across the country ran editorials under the hashtag #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Spearheaded by the Independent Florida Alligator, student news organizations named the struggles they face, most often with funding and censorship. The Beacon is largely lucky in these respects. We’re financially backed by the college, which some consider a danger to editorial independence. To our current staff’s knowledge, administrators haven’t tried to suppress any of our coverage, no matter how unflattering it may be to Emerson.

But the way the college funds the Beacon holds us back. In 2011, the Student Government Association moved to eliminate the Beacon’s prior guaranteed annual funding. Now, SGA decides the budget of this paper each year, along with the rest of the college’s approved student organizations. Think about that: If they so choose, SGA can withhold resources from the news source that tasks itself with being an SGA watchdog. The Beacon’s relationship with SGA is cordial. But what happens if one day it’s not?

In the past decade, the Beacon dove deep into Title IX cases, racism within curricula, misconduct of campus police, and treatment of college staff. We’ve published writings that held administration accountable and inspired real change on this campus. No other campus publication has tasked themselves with these responsibilities.

We’ve been fortunate. So far, no hands from the college or the student government have reached for our throats. But the rules that come with SGA recognition have held us back from doing our work—keeping you informed—to the best of our ability.

In last week’s editorial we reflected on our transition to a digital-first operations plan. Daily deadlines are industry norm, so our change was not groundbreaking. But behind the scenes, the transition was gruesome. Our work has always been time consuming—editors regularly clock more than 30 hours a week on top of classwork. And editors who need an income work extra hours after that. This year, all our workloads increased as we developed and implemented this plan.

Our five editors who attended a national student journalism conference this year felt intimidated by other college papers with better resources, whether through a large endowment or public funding. Though we doubted our ability to compete with more affluent institutions, the Beacon won Best in Show for website at a small school. Our dedication to daily online publishing earned this recognition and we hope to keep setting a standard for collegiate news organizations. We don’t think our glorious WordPress theme snatched the crown: We believe the judges awarded us the title because of our consistent online presence. College Factual ranked Emerson as the best journalism undergraduate program in the country, and we believe our paper can achieve a comparable status with more resources. This year, we succeeded on our own because the paper had an operations-driven staff—but we cannot guarantee such a dedicated group of students will walk into our office every semester.

The truth is that there are many more glamorous opportunities for Emerson students than the Beacon. Boston-based internships provide students with industry skills we’ve yet to master. Part-time jobs pay rent. With this competition, it’s a wonder anyone applies for the Beacon. But this paper needs a robust staff to continue to grow and thrive. Last week, our advisor said this year would be a milestone for us—but only if future staffs can keep up the pace. For them to do so, we need to safeguard our funding, and ensure our student journalists have the support, guidance, and resources they need.

This summer, senior Beacon staff hope to begin negotiations with the college about how we can ensure our progress doesn’t stop here. And we hope you’ll support us.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Beacon was the only “organization” that “has tasked themselves with these responsibilities,” the article has been updated to reflect that the Beacon is the only “campus publication that has tasked themselves with these responsibilities.”  

Show More

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.