Every week, as editors of the Foghorn, we assign stories to writers, edit our content, lay out our pages, send all of our work to print, and distribute our papers. Students, faculty and community members then have the opportunity to pick up a paper and learn about the happenings at USF. Readers can glance over news headlines on the way to class, enjoy Campus Chic on the bus, and evaluate the opinion section over coffee in Crossroads. Staff writers anxiously await the release of the paper each Wednesday to see their name or picture in print. All of these weekly activities make the Foghorn a successful and respected newspaper.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. In the past, administrators have suggested eradicating print journalism from the USF campus, keeping the Foghorn but making it online-only news outlet by cutting funding for our printing. Recently, members of ASUSF’s Finance Committee also raised the issue, repeatedly questioning the significance of the Foghorn’s print version at our annual budget hearing. Though the committee generously granted us another year of funding for print, we were disturbed by these questions. Because so many of us value print journalism and wish to see the Foghorn continue, we would like to take a moment to explain why we think the print edition of the Foghorn is important to the student body.
First, there is no inherent reason to change the Foghorn to exclusively online production. Other papers around the country that have gone digitial have done so out of financial necessity. Following the boom in online media and the economic recession, readers have not been able to afford print journalism. This shift in technology also impacted advertisers, who started advertising online or even placing free ads on Craigslist. With these major losses in revenue, smaller newspapers could no longer afford production costs and were left with no option but to move all content to the web.
The difference between these papers and the Foghorn is that the Foghorn’s budget is not in any risk. Students at USF pay a flat fee every year that covers all student activities (including all clubs and organizations). This fee pays for the Foghorn to be printed. Advertising covers a portion of production costs, individuals are not charged for copies of the Foghorn, so funding for the Foghorn is in no way threatened by the desire of students to receive news for free.
Second, student retention rates rely on organizations like the Foghorn. One of the biggest expressed concerns of many administrators is freshmen retention. We firmly believe that the Foghorn creates a feeling of community that helps students connect with activities on campus and get involved. New writers for the Foghorn establish connections with editors and get to see their name in print around campus. The pride students take in their work for the Foghorn and the opportunity the Foghorn gives students to get involved in other organizations on campus is extremely valuable in retaining students who otherwise might not experience a sense of community at USF. Without the print version of the Foghorn, students would not know a news organization even existed on campus, nor would they be able to benefit from the information it compiles.
Third, students would not want to work for the Foghorn if there was no tangible evidence of their efforts. Most of us are in agreement that, as editors, we would not be willing to dedicate the time and energy we currently give to the Foghorn if no paper was printed. Each week, the paper directs students online to view additional content related to the printed articles. Without this direction, students would not visit the website and its existence would become obsolete. If the Foghorn had no editors and no readers, then it would not exist, and this is something that we refuse to allow.
At this time, we ask the student body to stand by the Foghorn and support our efforts to produce balanced news stories, insightful editorials, and entertaining scene and sports stories. It is likely that those administrators whose interests align with the Foghorn’s demise will continue to advocate against print journalism. It is our job to protect our paper and we ask for you to do the same.