Looking forward, looking back: Independent student journalism is crucial, now more than ever

Megan Tran, Editor-in-Chief

Before coming to UT, I’d never read The Daily Texan and had no experience working for a newspaper. I certainly didn’t expect to become involved in journalism. And yet, my freshman year, I wound up applying on a whim, with no idea that the Texan would come to define my time at UT.

Being a student journalist isn’t easy. It’s time consuming and stressful to balance academic responsibilities with the demands of the newspaper. Behind every story published are dozens of rejected pitches, emails sent without response and late nights spent editing. Many days, my coursework took a backseat to the stories I was writing and the deadlines I had to meet.

There’s no other way that I would’ve wanted to spend these last couple years. Working for the Texan and serving as its editor-in-chief has been an undeniable privilege. More than that, it’s taught me just how important student journalism is.

Unfortunately, challenges like increased printing costs, declining ad revenue and pressure from university administrators imperil independent student newspapers. The Texan is no exception. After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, we were forced to reduce our weekly print production to twice a week. Now, the majority of content we produce is published online, and it doesn’t seem like that will change any time soon.

However, the decline of print doesn’t signal the end of journalism. Many newsrooms, like the Texan, have adapted to the increasing digitization of media and adopted new ways of reaching readers. Online news has its benefits; it’s cheaper to produce and allows for real-time updates as events progress.

Student newspapers serve as training grounds for prospective full-fledged journalists, and even students who aren’t looking to pursue journalism long-term can benefit. Here, students have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to think critically, seek the truth and produce quality journalism. In today’s age, a digital world rife with misinformation, this is all the more vital.

Furthermore, as institutions that primarily report on university affairs, student newspapers are responsible for holding administrators accountable and must remain independent. First and foremost, the Texan exists to serve and inform the UT community.

My time at the Texan is almost at an end, but it’s taught me skills and given me friends I’ll value for a lifetime. After spending the last few years in our dingy basement office — working alongside students who are passionate about reporting the truth and seeking change — I’m hopeful for the future of journalism.

Tran is a Plan II, English and sociology junior from Houston, Texas. She is the editor-in-chief.