We as Toreros can and should do more: Our school’s student media system, its failings, the opportunities it presents and a call for student involvement

By Sarah Jorgensen

I’m just going to come out and say it: the student media system at USD was broken. But it’s in the process of being fixed, and you can help.

You might be wondering about who I am, and how I have the audacity to make such a claim. Aside from being one of two station directors for USD Radio (an organization I joined during my freshman year), I have been involved with The Vista in a variety of roles over my four years at this university.

I first wrote for the The Vista during my first semester here, and wrote intermittently throughout the year as I began to get involved with USD Radio, which was barely an official campus organization because of its newness.

While we have come a long way in terms of student media freedom and professionalism over these past few years, there is a long way to go, and it begins with you – yes, you, the person reading this article.

Why should you care though? A more thriving student media system would enhance our campus life so much.

Think of the exciting intrigue of the campus discussion and debate surrounding last fall’s Tina Beattie incident. Student media offered a forum for not only the latest information on the situation, but also allowed for student voice to be exposed.

Even within the past few weeks student media have facilitated conversation about the recent Supreme Drag Superstar event hosted by PRIDE. Think of the sheer potential for this energy.

There is a real opportunity for change and unity at this university. Student media outlets offer students the opportunity to come together to deliberate about the important issues facing our college experience right now.

Here’s the heart of the problem: student media is not supported enough by students. As a student media leader now, I can say that it is rather difficult to find very many students that are genuinely excited by the prospect of being actively engaged and involved with student media here, and that is a sad thing.

During my sophomore year as The Vista’s Opinion editor, I encountered a variety of frustrating dynamics that eventually led me to leave the paper in order to pursue USD Radio as my main student media commitment. Seniors trying to graduate with no journalistic aspirations wrote for The Vista to sneak in a few extra units to graduate on time, and that led to dull, unenthusiastic articles.

The Vista, too, had to pass through the eyes of an administration member to check for appropriate content before it went to print. While the administration as a whole has been supportive of student media – especially within the department of Student Affairs – the conflict of interest here should be clear.

Imagine if a senior cabinet member within the Obama administration read the New York Times before it went to print each day. While copy was very rarely altered, it was still a frustrating dynamic that never sat quite right with me ethically. Ideally, news outlets, including those run by students, should operate independently in order to avoid a conflict of interest in their coverage. The administration no longer reads The Vista before it goes to print.

When I was promoted to Editor and then Station Director of USD Radio, I learned of a whole host of other issues that impact both USD Radio and USD TV. Both organizations operate as Centers within the Associated Students funding structure. That means that our budgets each year are dictated through the AS budgeting procedure.

The Vista, on the other hand, is funded through a $8.00 student fee tacked onto each undergraduate student’s tuition. The three media outlets, then, could never be completely equal.

The Vista inherently had more money and did not need to lean on AS for its needs. I can’t speak for USD TV, but while AS has been very kind to USD Radio – our budget has been increased each year since I have been involved – it still doesn’t feel quite right that we are underfunded compared to another, albeit older, outlet.

It’s not all bad, though, and a lot of progress has been made. Since I’ve been at USD, the quality of content being produced through student media has skyrocketed. The Vista , USD Radio, and USD TV have all begun to collaborate far more, aided by the help of a new faculty adviser overseeing all three outlets.

The growing group of students currently leading student media – including those who are set to take over next school year – are all passionate and eager to continue the upward momentum that student media have seen in the past few years. The spirit of collaboration and optimism among the outlets can’t be lost.

That can’t be done, though, only by a few. You – the students, the readership – need to step up, too. Do you disagree with an editorial decision by The Vista? Write a letter to the editor!

Do you have a lot to say about the state of a certain dynamic on campus, from school spirit to Greek life? Host a show on USD Radio! What about profiling intriguing members of our campus community?

Film a segment for USD TV! If you want to see change, you have to make change happen yourself. This is a way to make a public statement about your thoughts beyond the confines of Facebook, your dorm room, or even your student organization. Make your voices heard.

Finally, please support the new student media fee that will hopefully make its way into the Associated Students Senate next year.

This fee would raise the student media fee for all students to $30.00 a year, which would lead to equal funding, and, therefore, equal footing among all three student media outlets. It will allow for greater fairness and collaboration among the outlets, and will further encourage student voice on this campus.

As I go off to Columbia Journalism School in New York in the fall, I am proud to be coming from a university like USD in the midst of a student media revolution.

The question, though, is whether or not you want to be a part of it, and whether or not you will step up and make your voice heard.

Hopefully, that question won’t be too hard to answer.