Former editor says working at the Herald gives students a sense of responsibility

Save Student Newsrooms

David Whitaker

It’s been nearly 40 years since my days on the Herald, but I benefit from that experience every day. 

The friendships I made there remain among my strongest and longest personal connections. Working on an independent campus newspaper is more than just a “lab” experiment. It gives reporters and editors a sense of responsibility – of what it’s like to be responsible for something.

Whether it’s a beat, or a story or a whole newspaper. It also gives clear purpose — seeking truth, wherever that leads, even if that might offend or threaten someone or some institution.

I carry a sense of responsibility and ethics with me every day, at my job, in part, because I learned to take ownership in a newsroom. When something comes to my attention that seems ill-advised, or that just includes a typo or a factual error, I speak up. Whether it’s my job to or not, whether it’s in my community or not.

Working on an independent campus newspaper taught me to be a participant, not an observer, in everything that I do. It helped me find my voice, in writing, and it exposed me to opposing and differing points of view, which challenged me to improve and consider all sides.

Because of financial pressures, we’ve lost the Talisman as a yearbook, and the Herald is now published once per week, instead of twice – two developments I never thought possible, decades ago, when the newsroom was the center of my undergraduate experience.

As financial pressures on state governments continue to force changes at our universities, it’s essential that we continue to support, and to preserve the editorial independence of, the Herald and other student newspapers.

This letter is part of the #SaveStudentNewsrooms movement. A student-led campaign designed to bring attention to the challenges student newsrooms face.

David Whitaker is a former Herald editor-in-chief for the fall 1979 semester.