Student Journalism’s Voice in Campus Discourse is Vital

By Samantha McAllister, AU SIS ’21

Due to the current social climate, we are seeing attacks on media and journalism. As the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi fades from headlines, the necessary role that dedicated journalists play in how we as a society speak to each other is increasingly highlighted, or dismissed, by those in positions of power.

The need to share stories, both others and my own, is what drove me to my high school newspaper. My passion for sharing my voice about campus issues led me to The Eagle’s opinion section. Whether it be finding out how Title IX changes will affect the university or where someone’s next brunch spot should be, The Eagle is participating in campus discourse.

News happens at AU, big or small. As a columnist, my choice in what to write about frequently starts with the news section. After it was reported that an AU Trustee had a history of sexual misconduct, I wrote a column on how this instance was just an example of the larger problem of disrespect towards women in the workplace. Sometimes, a column idea is simply what my friends have been complaining about in the last week. The process can work in the opposite direction: after Opinion Editor Nickolaus Mack wrote a column highlighting AU’s founder’s ties to slavery, the University created a working group to investigate its history. This was an instance where a student voice could have been ignored, but instead an entire conversation between students and administrators was started on campus that would not have happened otherwise.

Discourse on campus can be fraught with quick reactions and obscured facts. The Eagle, along with the other talented student media organizations on campus, find the truth for students and provide a platform outside of Twitter rants. For Eagle reporters, the ethics code is strict, with reporters not allowed to express opinions on campus related issues, even on personal social media. The dedication for unbiased reports on the people and circumstances that matter on campus is what leads student journalism in shaping campus discourse. Students want to leave campus, and the world, a better place. Providing information and a platform for that discourse is vital for a healthy student body.

Recently, fellow student media organization AWOL was shut out of a public meeting held by the AU Dining Advisory Board focusing on controversial new meal plans. Actions like these are concerning for all students, because without access to information there can be no discussion. Information on college campuses is power, and The Eagle’s role, along with other organizations, is to disseminate that information.

My goal as an opinion columnist is simple: get people talking. Whether that be people disagreeing or the AU administration taking some notice, the purpose of any opinion is to share it. Without a platform to do that like The Eagle, AWOL, or The Blackprint, students could be erased from the issues that most deeply affect them. Students are what drive me to write my opinions: the ones that agree, disagree, or do not even care about the issue. By finding truth and speaking on campus issues, The Eagle and student journalism get the campus talking.

Students and student media talk together to find what matters, now and tomorrow for students. Because in the end, that’s what we all share: an identity as a student.

Samantha McAllister is a sophomore majoring in International Studies at American University. She is an Assistant Opinion Editor for The Eagle and an avid advocate for student journalism.

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