Is print dead ? According to Texas A&M University’s President, it is.
On February 10th, M. Katherine Banks declared war against the university’s 129-year-old paper, The Battalion.
Banks surprised student journalists and advisers telling them to cease printing weekly editions, effective immediately. The President hoped to shift the paper to digital-only formats under the watchful eye of the new Department of Journalism she wishes to inaugurate.
This decision came without the consultation from members of the newspaper or its faculty adviser.
“We’re not in charge here, the audience is in charge,” Banks said.
Ironically the demand to stop printing comes from Banks – not The Battalion’s readership.
In reality, the audience turned to social media to voice outrage under the hashtag “SaveTheBatt”, and also started a petition against Banks for wanting to cease The Batt’s weekly physical publications.
On Friday, Banks took back her first ultimatum and gave the paper until the end of the spring semester to make a decision. And on Monday, she said she would appoint a team to work on rebuilding a journalism department at the College Station campus, as reported by The Houston Chronicle.
However, if you ask The Battalion, this was not a declaration of peace.
Earlier today, they handed out an issue with the front-page headline: “PRINT IS NOT DEAD”. In it they say there is still a fight to be had, blaming the administration for still being under the impression that they have a say in the newspaper’s decisions.
“It’s not the administration’s decision to tell us if we can or cannot print. It’s not its place to tell us we can or cannot do anything,” the article says.
They explain how the newspaper is – and was – financially independent. The Battalion is 100% funded by advertising and revenue streams outside of the university, “not a dime from A&M.”
The newspaper has operated without the support of a journalism school since 2003, leaving students only with options for either a minor or independent study.
“The Battalion is an editorially independent newspaper, and has been for its entire existence. Its independence doesn’t come from any university rule, but a much higher power — vested in the First Amendment. Our independence is as guaranteed as that of our peers at The Eagle or The Houston Chronicle,” said The Battalion.
Banks claimed she believed in the freedom of press, but students think her actions speak otherwise.
As she advocates for journalism at A&M through the new department, she is actively killing the trust of potential students for the program.
“What do they gain from writing for a paper that’s nothing more than a public relations arm for the school?” Ian Curtis said in A&M Consolidated High School’s publication, The Roar.
The Battalion will continue the fight until the A&M administration pays closer attention.
Making it clear they would continue to be the independent student voice of Texas A&M and not a public relations adjunct.
“We print the news; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Anyone who has any concerns over that can take it up with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”