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Commentary Relays Edition

 Dire straits: fourth estate irate

Student journalists work cast aside Photo by Grace Altenhofen | Editor-in-Chief

Legendary journalist Bob Woodward visited Drake University earlier this month to deliver the 44th Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture.

Woodward is widely known for collaborating with Carl Bernstein to uncover the Watergate scandal, but he made his career reporting on the administration of every United States president since then.

Bob Woodward has spent his entire life advocating for freedom of the press. As an ally to democracy, he has inspired journalists for decades.

So how dare Drake University invite journalism royalty to our campus when they won’t support our student publications?

During introductions before Woodward’s address, President Marty Martin made a call for donations to The Ones Campaign.

One of the pillars of The Ones campaign is “Revitalizing Democracy.” The Ones’ website says, “At its heart, democracy is a collective, lived experience that requires an active, informed public.”

An active, informed public is at risk here on Drake University’s campus if student journalism is neglected and the student publications left out in the cold.

Our student publications are vital to informing the Drake community on local, state and national news. Student journalists are The Ones championing the truth.

The Board of Student Communications has been discussing a student media fee increase for months. Even before then, student publications have been cutting hours, pay and positions to work within budget constrictions.

This is an extraordinarily complicated situation without any easy solutions in sight.

But any action is more than complete inaction.

While the student publications have rallied to have our voices heard, those in power have sat unmoving and passed along their responsibility. They have promised they care about our publications and want to seek a solution, but actions speak louder than words.

The university’s mission statement reads, “Drake’s mission is to provide an exceptional learning environment that prepares students for meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments and responsible global citizenship.”

One cannot be responsible without being informed. Student journalism contributes to Drake’s mission by serving as a resource to inform students as they navigate responsible global citizenship.

Perhaps those in power don’t recognize how much information they glean from the news and from journalism. Even a story about olive oil in Starbucks drinks is still news.

Journalism also covers groundbreaking content. During her remarks to introduce Bob Woodward, The Times-Delphic Editor-in-Chief Grace Altenhofen spoke of the importance of the Fourth Estate that holds those in power accountable.

Drake student journalism should hold our university accountable. Whether it’s investigative reporting into COVID-19 statistics or a satirical piece from DUiN about the administration, it is our responsibility to question authority and provide an outside voice on relevant issues.

Opportunities provided by the six student publications are preparing students to hold larger institutions accountable. Student journalists are The Ones revitalizing democracy.

We are The Ones who will become the next Bob Woodward.

We are The Ones who will become the next Scott Pelley.

We are the Ones who will become the next Barbara Walters.

We are The Ones who will become the next Art Cullen.

We are The Ones who will become the next Nellie Bly.

We are The Ones who will become the next Marie Colvin.

For those seeking an initiative to provide more professional development opportunities to students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, they need not look further than our student publications. 

I am a public relations major, and my work with The Times-Delphic will make me a better public relations professional.

When all is said and done, we can argue about the importance of student journalism for hours, even months. We already have. Incredible people have poured their hearts and souls into this issue for months because passion is a necessity to go into journalism.

I often tell others outside our campus community that Drake’s problems reflect the world’s problems, and this situation is no different. Bob Woodward spoke about how journalism is under fire from those who find journalism to be a threat to them.

Journalism is shrinking across the country and around the world. I sincerely hope Drake can defy the trend and support journalism, especially student journalism, in a time when it is both threatened and needed more than ever.

The goal of Drake student journalism is to inform our community of the accomplishments of the student body and to inform the student body of the issues that concern them. Only with this information can students achieve responsible global citizenship and fulfill Drake University’s mission statement. 

If there is not more active support for student journalists, those in power at Drake University will have failed all their students – past, present and future.

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