The Texas A&M newspaper was ordered to halt print publication


The new president of Texas A&M University this week issued an ultimatum to the staff of the 129-year-old student newspaper on campus: Immediately stop printing a weekly print version and go under the tutelage of a university department, or lose much of it. of its current resources, the publication reported on Friday.

The abrupt decision by university president Mr Katherine Banks, who took office in June after nine years as dean of the engineering school, stunned battalion staff members and sparked a campaign on Twitter under the hashtag #SaveTheBatt

By Friday afternoon, Banks had granted a reprieve of sorts, saying the paper could continue to publish a print product with university support until the end of the spring semester.

But Banks also told the newspaper’s management during a Zoom call on Friday that the switch to print will allow the battalion to focus on digital and multimedia efforts, editor Myranda Campanella said. The president referenced the changing media landscape, adding, “I’m not a professor of journalism, I don’t understand exactly why (print media) is important to the field,” the editors recalled in their report.

When asked why battalion leadership or other journalism instructors or professionals were not included in the decision-making process, Banks reportedly said it was purely “a decision made by the management of the university”.

“I think this is a new era for The Battalion,” the newspaper quoted Banks as saying. “It will not be printed.”

College Station University officials did not immediately return a request for comment from the Chronicle.

The dean of students and acting director of student life at Texas A&M had briefed management on the university’s plans during a last-minute meeting with newspaper staff Thursday. The dean arrived with a copy of a high-profile report commissioned by the university that calls for the realignment of several academic disciplines, including journalism, according to the staff article.

Campanella said she hoped to have further conversations with Banks about the newspaper’s future, especially after she was left out of the meetings that led to the shock decision. The goal is still to continue printing indefinitely, despite Banks’ insistence that the paper cease print publication at the end of the semester, the publisher said.

“On behalf of the battalion staff, we were all very shocked by this news yesterday,” Campanella said by phone. “There was no warning from the university administration. And it seems that this decision was made without consulting anyone at the battalion or even our academic advisor.

Banks’ ultimatum came months after the release of the academic realignment report, commissioned by a private consulting firm. One of the many recommendations was that the university establish a journalism department within the new College of Arts and Sciences, “to create honors programs in print journalism, broadcast journalism, digital journalism and photojournalism” . The school does not currently have a hostel for students wishing to study journalism, and details of the new department have not been announced.

“Elevating and expanding the Journalism program to a department allows TAMU to increase media literacy and student capacity, strengthen local community engagement, realize eventual student program employees in the Marketing and Communications Division and to expand the capabilities and reach of the Battalion and (TV and FM station) KAMU,” the report read.

The battalion transitioned to “student organization status” three years ago, but is funded exclusively by advertising, according to the battalion’s article. Banks reportedly told the student newspaper’s management that it had to choose whether to remain a student organization or transition to the Journalism Department as a digital-only publication.

Remaining a student organization means it would no longer receive certain resources, including its current office space and faculty advisor, the newspaper’s executives said.

The decision was not the result of any specific content or advertising in the battalion, Banks told the publication, and it was not the university’s intention to police the competition.

On Friday evening, many of the newspaper’s supporters were expressing dismay at the university leaders’ decision.

Caleb Elizondo, who identifies as an engineering student at TAMU and an opinion writer for the battalion, tweeted that the effort to discontinue the print version was “maddening”.

“Once my MLK article was published in the newspaper, everyone read it, but no one reads the online version. Shutting down the print version drowns out our voices,” Elizondo wrote.

Campanella tweeted on Friday afternoon: “I have been overwhelmed, confused and in shock for the past 24 hours but one thing is certain – the battalion will print this Thursday.”

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