Friday, May 16, 2014

The Daily Egyptian

I don't usually delve deeply into political matters on my blog. I skim the surface of issues that matter to me, but I usually try to keep it a bit light. I can't do that today as this issue is so incredibly near and dear to me-- I am an adjunct instructor at a local community college (*this is all solely my opinion, and it is not a reflection of my employer*)  that sends many of its graduates to Southern Illinois University. I'm also a proud graduate of Southern Illinois University.

Of the four years I spent at Southern, the most dreaded time of year for me was summer-- there was no Daily Egyptian to pick up! Nothing to catch me up on local news (unless of course I had the spare change for The Southern Illinoisan which as a broke college kid, I did not) and no crossword puzzle to figure out (What can I say? I'm a sucker for a decent crossword puzzle). I also have friends who found their legs at the DE-- many have gone on to work for newspapers as reporters or photographers.

Unfortunately, this part of my past may soon be gone forever. The DE needs money because like its "real life" counterparts, the print business can be rough, especially if you exist in an economy that's struggling. The DE has always relied on advertising to foot its bill, that is until now.

There is a proposed addition to student fees-- 9 dollars. Recently, the state House of Representatives, according to The Southern, passed its version of the state budget which included an amendment alloting $70,000 in state funds for The DE. The bill of course still has to go to the senate and potentially the governor's desk.

An acquaintance recently did an editorial on a local morning show about the state of The DE. I respectfully disagree with his opinions. But if he can do his editorial, you're damn right I'm going to blog about this. Heck, maybe I should send it to him. I'll let you, the readers, decide that one.

My Alma Mater is struggling. Enrollment is dropping. We've had our fair share of scandals and problems. And now The DE is succumbing to the effects of such problems as well as the state of the local economy. But this does not mean The Daily Egyptian should die.

Now I realize two important issues regarding this situation:

1. Print media is "dying."
2. Saving The Daily Egyptian costs more money than people want to spend, particulary Illinois taxpayers. 

First, let's address the myth that print media is dying. Print media isn't actually dying. According to a 2013 study by Rick Edmond, Emily Guskin, Amy Mitchell, and Mark Jurkowiz, "newspapers coming onto the market are finding buyers." Arguably, the prices are low, but that's why print media is adapting. Nearly every paper and magazine has a website. Many have so called e-editions. I used to subscribe to a magazine that offered a tablet only version-- it was identical to the print version except you just swiped your tablet to turn the page. So is it technically print? No. But it's still written for what those in the business refer to as print.

Now for the economics... why should we save The DE? Our local economy is far from thriving. One way to boost the southern Illinois economy is to increase enrollment at SIUC. But what is a journalism school without a student run newspaper? It's certainly not a place I'd want to send anyone to study journalism. And that saddens me because I cherish SIUC, The DE, and the southern Illinois region. But with tuition costs rising, I could never encourage one of my students to attend the once renowned SIUC journalism program if there is no Daily Egyptian. I'd encourage them to check out other schools, and this is a problem because that's money I'm attempting to send away from our local economy. One might say, "Then don't encourage them to go elsewhere." As an educator, I have to urge them to do what is best for them, even if that means providing them with information about other schools.

Our region sustains itself on students. We cannot continue to deny this fact. Many businesses have to prepare for the summer because the students do in fact disappear for a short while. What if the students go away forever? If the students disappear, our favorite restaurants and shops could disappear. During the school year, I don't think there's ever a time I'm in a local restaurant or shop without the nearby presence of a student or at least a professor. 

I know the student run newspaper is simply a small cog in the machine of what is SIUC, but if we aren't willing to save it, what happens when another part of SIUC needs saving? As a tell my students, it all adds up. If you don't complete multiple small assignments, it's just like not doing one large assignment. The same could be said for saving The Daily Egyptian. If little pieces of SIUC fall apart, it will make a large dent. So, yes, I want to pay taxes to save a student newspaper. Do I think it will set a bad precedent (as said acquaintance thinks). No. Saving a school or even just its student run newspaper is far different than bailing out banks and automotive companies. Saving a school or a mere fraction of a school is an investment in our future. We often say our children are our future, but we never want to act on it. Let's change that. Invest in our students.

Sure, some of the students will leave, but others will stay. And those that leave? If we give them a solid foundation for their futures, they will tell others. And a solid reputation will bring more students, thus boosting enrollment and our local economy. Again, I know this one portion can't save us. But not saving it sets a precedent for letting others sink, and that will drown SIUC. And we can't deny we won't be innocent bystanders caught in flood. Look around. Who do you see? You see students, and we need them.

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