Issue: Transylvania University notified the professional student media adviser of its student publication, Tom Martin of The Rambler, that it would be severely cutting The Rambler’s budget and ending stipends for all students on staff. Martin was told he would be replaced by an unpaid faculty member if he was not willing to work for free next semester. The Rambler is now not publishing in protest of the university’s decision.
Our stance: The College Heights Herald stands in solidarity with The Rambler, as it understands this is yet another of too many examples of journalism being under attack.
Journalism is constantly in the crosshairs of higher powers at every level, and this is more true today than it ever has been.
According to Tristan Reynolds, editor-in-chief at The Rambler, employees at The Rambler were not made aware of this decision by the university and had to find out from Martin.
The Rambler met with Transylvania’s university administrators and were told no concrete decisions had been made, but in the same meeting administrators said again that monetary payments to students would end.
“The University's attempt to change their story and walk back their decisions, which were arrived at without consultation with Rambler staff, is extremely disappointing, especially given the national and state level political climate,” Reynolds said in a statement to the Herald.
The Rambler ended its print publication three years ago and moved to a digital-only publication to save money, part of which allowed The Rambler to pay students and bring in a professional staff adviser, according to the Herald-Leader.
Journalism students’ opportunity to learn from a professional journalist gives them some of the best experience possible aside from actual newsroom experience itself, and writers at The Rambler were able to benefit from both, something that is extremely rare at universities across America.
“I think that the news of the change in our budget and termination of Tom Martin's position came as a genuine shock to the Rambler staff, especially at this point in the semester, when we had made so many exciting plans for what our publication will look like next semester,” said Taylor Mahlinger, managing editor of The Rambler. “The staff cannot be expected to put in the amount of time and effort that we have over the past two years with no monetary compensation on the table because our time is valuable.”
Half of news jobs in the country right now are online only, according to an article from the Wall Street Journal. Transylvania’s decision to stop paying student journalists and possibly forcing out a professional news adviser shows no support of where the industry is going.
The same Wall Street Journal article says more than 100,000 news jobs have evaporated since the start of the century and from 2010 to 2015, almost $800 million worth of grants were given to public media to try to save the industry. Transylvania University can either be part of the problem or the solution, and it is clear which stance they’ve taken.
Transylvania’s decision to attempt to walk back its statements while continuing forward with its decision is another horrible precedent being set for how universities can treat their student publications.