Student journalists across the Texas A&M system face adversity
By: Sierra Wells
Within the past few years, several schools in the Texas A&M system have taken actions that adversely affected student journalists.
Texas A&M University
After printing for 129 years, the Battalion student newspaper at Texas A&M University has been fighting a battle to continue in print.
On Feb. 10, the Dean of Students informed Editor-in-Chief Myranda Campanella that President Katherine Banks ordered them to stop printing.
“So that was the first time we’d heard anything, and it wasn’t ever a discussion of like, ‘hey, we think maybe you should consider stopping this.’ Which like, I mean, it really shouldn’t have been them saying it in the first place. That should have been a student decision if we ever would’ve even considered it,” Campanella said.
Campanella met with Banks over Zoom to discuss this decision. After the meeting, Banks invited Campanella and News Editor Michaela Rush to join a working group which would decide the future of the Battalion.
Before the Battalion was told to stop printing, Banks announced she would be bringing a journalism degree program to Texas A&M.
“I care deeply about journalism at Texas A&M. That is why I decided in December to rebuild a strong journalism degree program here. I also believe that we should return to the very successful model which existed at Texas A&M previously when The Battalion was associated with the journalism department,” Banks said. “The reaction to this plan makes it clear that I should seek additional community feedback on the role of The Battalion and the rebuilt Department of Journalism, while also getting feedback about industry trends and future workforce needs.”
Robert Bohler, a retired student media advisor from Texas Christian University and member of the College Media Association Hall of Fame, recognizes the importance of keeping the independence of the Battalion, even with the new journalism department.
“There’s some merit to the fact that they’re restoring the journalism program. I hope that they don’t lose sight of the value of an independent newspaper that goes along with it,” Bohler said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. You can have a very strong journalism program and have a very strong independent newspaper.”
The Battalion’s print edition has been completely funded by advertisements, and according to Campanella, they do not plan to stop printing.
Texas A&M University- San Antonio
Unlike the Battalion, The Mesquite student newspaper at Texas A&M University – San Antonio already publishes exclusively online. However, Daisy Gonzalez-Quezada, their editor-in-chief, has also seen journalists face issues at her university.
“I think I’ve come to learn that it is very common for student journalists to have these kinds of issues with administration. It’s not so much that they’re not willing to talk to us, but they do kind of, let me think about the right word, we have faced obstacles that have been placed by administration,” Gonzalez-Quezada said. “Like for example, I know that, not me personally, but other student journalists at my school have had struggles getting in touch with their sources for interviews, because they’re saying that they need to have approval from administration before being interviewed.”
Texas A&M University – Kingsville
At Texas A&M University – Kingsville, The South Texan student publication now has to rely on their department for funding.
According to Editor-in-Chief Ronni Reyna, the university will no longer allow The South Texan to actively go out and sell advertisements to businesses in the community. Instead the newspaper has to wait for advertisers to come to them.
“We were told a couple semesters ago that we could not compete with local media, and the university did kind of put an end to us going out into the community and getting advertisement,” Reyna said. “So, because of that, that’s when we rely on our department for help, because ad revenue is everything to a paper. If you look at something like the Battalion, all of their funding is through ads.”
Prairie View A&M University
Some schools, like Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), struggled to obtain enough student participants to keep their newspaper running.
The Panther student newspaper at PVAMU has not been active since spring 2020.
“The newspaper stopped printing because it became difficult to recruit and retain students who were excited by and devoted to the production process. There was not a formal decision to shut down the paper, we just did not have enough student participation to produce new editions. It could be revived at any time with the right student leadership,” PVAMU Executive Director of Marketing Communications Candace Johnson said.
Tarleton State University
The Texan News Service (TNS) at Tarleton State University has previously dealt with censorship from the university.
During the summer of 2021, TNS was threatened with legal action over an article written about former Tarleton professor Micheal Landis. In response, the university asked TNS to remove the article from their website.
The students at the time ultimately decided to remove the article after feeling pressure from the administration.
Texas A&M University-Commerce
Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMU-C) decided to close their Mass Media and Journalism program.
According to eCommerceExtra, TAMU-C has a teach-out plan for students still in the program and will not accept new students.
Currently, the Mass Media and Journalism major is not listed on the 2021-2022 Undergraduate catalog PDF.
Attempts for comments from TAMU-C went unanswered as of this time.
Texas A&M International University
According to Editor-in-Chief David Gomez Jr., The Bridge newspaper at Texas A&M International University is classified as independent and has a good relationship with the university’s administration.
“It’s a good thing to be independent,” Gomez said.
Texas A&M University-Texarkana
Texas A&M University-Texarkana offers an undergraduate program in Mass Communication and a Master of Arts in Communication but does not have an official student newspaper.
Texas A&M University-Central Texas
Texas A&M University-Central Texas does not have a journalism program or student newspaper.
TNS was unable to receive comment from the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christie student newspaper, Island Waves.
Depending on the location, student journalists can experience different challenges from the university, students or community.
According to Bohler, student journalists making independent decisions will benefit them in the future.
“The more independent the student media is, then the greater risk that the student has, and it means that they’ve got to really think about what they’re reporting and what they’re writing, and it makes them take ownership of what that content is, and so they know that if they screw up, they’re going to be accountable for it,” he said. “It’s a great learning process and a great platform for people to take responsibility for what their actions are.”
In the Texas A&M system, a pattern of issues has come up, putting the future of independent journalism at these schools in question.