The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Editorial: Print is not dead

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Print journalism is not dead at Texas A&M.
Despite the whirlwind 24 hours that occurred for The Battalion’s leadership last week, and a public announcement that members of the journalism working group could “discuss changes to distribution of The Battalion’s weekly editions,” there is still a fight to be had. And a fight we will make if A&M’s administration continues to ignore us.
We will not be condescended into believing print journalism is not important.
We will not allow the administration to control our content — or the platform on which we publish.
Talks of a digital transformation and future multidisciplinary collaboration to propel our institution into the future sound wonderful. That is, until the true colors start to show. Not to mention, isn’t this institution rooted in tradition? Aren’t the unique qualities, which “from the outside looking in, you can’t explain,” what give life to our famous Spirit of Aggieland?
This board agrees that A&M needs better technology, resources and infrastructure — just try to meet deadlines when Canvas or the campus internet fails. However, progress shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of the centuries-old traditions which define Aggieland. The Battalion is a tradition. We have printed on this campus for 129 years. That’s longer than the Aggies have gathered to trash talk the visiting football team at Midnight Yell. From Silver Taps to historic 41-38 upsets and everything in between, The Battalion reports on and physically documents A&M’s history.
Besides The Battalion’s sentimental value, we offer concrete job experience for students pursuing journalism, and for those who are not. President M. Katherine Banks, Vice President of Student Affairs, or VPSA, Gen. Joe Ramirez and the administration at large are under the impression that print journalism, globally, is dead. Well, President Banks, they’ve been telling us that since members of this board were in diapers — yet print journalism is still here. Your job, at an institution of higher education, is to provide students the resources they need, academic or otherwise, to find jobs and succeed beyond graduation. Our job, as The Battalion, is to provide that experience.
It’s not the administration’s decision to tell us if we can or cannot print. It’s not its place to tell us we can or cannot do anything.
We are an officially recognized student organization, and our editorial control has been outside of university purview for several years now. Even when The Battalion existed under the Offices of the Dean of Student Life, we had strict boundaries that allowed the publication full editorial freedom over every single word we chose to publish.
To dispel any other confusion, the newspaper is — and was — financially independent as well. Currently, we are 100% funded by advertising and revenue streams outside of the university, with all funds provided by the university remaining in savings, untouched. Not a dime from A&M.
And, we’re in the black — we’re not losing money. Evidently, Banks and Ramirez missed that point.
In a Feb. 11 impromptu meeting between editor-in-chief Myranda Campanella, Student Body President Natalie Parks and Ramirez, the VPSA unequivocally stated the decision was, in fact, final, despite the demand being presented as a choice less than 24 hours before.
The Battalion was simply to accept the university’s decision and begin the transition back. Ramirez went so far to say in the meeting that he would need to speak with Dean of Students Anne Reber about this miscommunication, and reiterated the decision was final.
Our presence on the Department of Journalism working group is a victory for the Battalion staff, and an opportunity to be fairly represented in the decision-making process. We are looking forward to working alongside fellow journalists and faculty who will help advocate for our voice.
But, Associate Vice President for Marketing & Communications Kelly Brown said Banks will consider the working group’s proposals before making the final decision herself, as with the other working groups for university reorganization. Administration is still under the impression that they hold authority over The Battalion, when that is simply not true.
The Battalion is an editorially independent newspaper, and has been for its entire existence. Its independence doesn’t come from any university rule, but a much higher power — vested in the First Amendment. Our independence is as guaranteed as that of our peers at The Eagle or The Houston Chronicle.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s student press counsel, or FIRE, of the organization’s Student Press Freedom Initiative, sent a letter to Banks on Feb. 15, which has since been posted publicly. In the letter, FIRE expressed concerns on legal grounds over the assertion of university authority.
“[A&M’s] present demands of The Battalion squarely contradict Texas A&M’s obligations under the First Amendment, which bars the institution from regulating the form or content of an editorially-independent student publication,” the letter reads.
FIRE’s Student Press Counsel Lindsie Rank confirmed that A&M’s administration has no right under the First Amendment to dictate the medium to which The Battalion publishes, as much as it dictates the content it publishes.
“[The Battalion is] an independent student publication,” Rank said. “[It’s] just as free to determine the future of your organization as any other student organization is, and [it’s] really an independent entity that is not an arm of that state university in any way, shape or form.”
And determine the future of our organization we will, as we advocate for the continuation of print editions in the journalism working group. We are willing to collaborate and discuss new options for The Battalion to work with a new Department of Journalism, but we will not change our editorial decisions based on what this department — or administration — may or may not want.
The tragic irony of the situation is at the same time Banks has claimed to advocate for journalism at A&M through the new department, she is actively killing the trust of potential students for the program.
“Good luck finding any prospective students who would want to write for a publication that is the university’s lapdog,” Ian Curtis said in A&M Consolidated High School’s publication, The Roar. “What do they gain from writing for a paper that’s nothing more than a public relations arm for the school?”
There has been one time in The Battalion’s 129 years when an A&M president tried to control editorial decisions, and there’s a plaza and a tower named after him. In 1965, Texas A&M University was facing a number of monumental changes, chief among them was allowing women and minorities. But it also faced serious administrative censorship.
President James Earl Rudder routinely told former editor-in-chief Thomas DeFrank, Class of 1967, “We do not air our dirty laundry in public.”
In DeFrank’s own words, “[Rudder] did not want his student newspaper to cause trouble.”
If The Battalion tried publishing anything political — or anything Rudder considered “detrimental” to A&M — DeFrank said members of the administration would completely remove the story when the paper arrived at A&M’s printing press, without notifying anyone at The Battalion.
In September of 1966, DeFrank said Rudder’s administration suddenly changed The Battalion’s masthead to read “Publisher: Texas A&M” above any student editors’ names — seizing the seat of true editorial control for the administration above student journalists. Administrators told DeFrank The Battalion was not allowed to publish anything in regard to the masthead changing. However, when a reporter from the Associated Press’ Dallas office called The Battalion to ask why the masthead had changed, DeFrank replied, “Well, none of us feel like we’re really a newspaper anymore.”
Thomas DeFrank was fired by the university as editor-in-chief of The Battalion on Sept. 30, 1966.
“[Rudder] felt like the student newspaper should be a chronicle of the good things happening around the university. He thought it should be … a public relations adjunct,” DeFrank said.
The independent student voice of Texas A&M is not a public relations adjunct of anyone. We print the news; the good, the bad and the ugly. Anyone who has any concerns over that can take it up with the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution.

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