Westminster SGA, administration can ‘Save The Columns,’ newspaper culture

Call us biased, but we think some things on the chopping block at Westminster College should be reconsidered. Two of those are The Columns — the student-run campus newspaper— and the readership program which provides free editions of newspapers for students to read. The Sun first reported on these potential budget cuts earlier this year (see “Westminster SGA begins process of balancing next year’s budget” on Page 1 of the Jan. 5 edition).

These are two important programs for not just Westminster, but any college campus or community.

Consider the following statement from Thomas Jefferson: “An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.”

Newspapers are a valuable tool for any community. Newspapers provide a source of unbiased information about how taxes — or in the case of college, fees — are spent, how elected or appointed leaders paid by those public funds are doing business and the overall state of the community.

Newspapers also provide a marketing tool to reach a specific audience — whether it’s a business trying to grow or a non-profit holding a fundraiser, whether it’s entertainment activities or public meetings for information.

Newspapers also tell the story of the community — through features and personality profiles, they highlight the good things happening in the community.

The Columns is important for preserving that on the Westminster College campus.

The Columns newspaper is also good real-world skills for everyone involved. We’re not talking only about the students on staff who have an interest in newspapers or media as a career.

Working for a student newspaper teaches responsibility, meeting deadlines, collaborating with others and communication skills. Students who work at small college newspapers often go on to successful careers outside the media industry — with a greater edge on the aforementioned skills.

It’s also good real-world experience for others on campus. It’s good for Student Government Association members to learn to interact with the media.

While many may not give a it a second thought, most may be surprised that sometime in the future after college they will interact with the media in some way — whether it’s for sitting on a board or commission in their communities or for a simple feature story.

The Columns and readership program are also good for the student population. It gets students into the habit of reading newspapers. This is important, because we have a tendency to agree with Thomas Jefferson. Citizens should have the opportunity to be informed in the most unbiased manner possible so they can voice their opinions.

The readership program provides free copies of the New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and USA Today newspapers to students.

Online is not the solution. The Post-Dispatch and Times both limit the amount of content that can be viewed for free. Out of sight, out of mind comes into play. If students don’t see the newspapers present, it’s easier to forget they exist and not go to read them on their own. College is a place to learn — and that includes learning good habits to make them good citizens.

Additionally, according to the Missouri Press Association’s website, “research indicates students who use newspapers in their classroom curriculum increase and improve: reading skills, verbal interactions, student motivation and behavior, achievement scores and awareness of the world and their communities.”

It may seem easy to cut newspapers when it’s time to trim the budget, but the cost of no newspaper cannot be measured by dollars. Information is priceless.

We hope the Westminster College Student Government Association and administration take this into consideration when finalizing budget cuts this spring.

Those interested in voicing support for The Columns — students, alumni and friends of the college — can do so by signing an online petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/721/449/117/i-support-the-columns.

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