Many HBCUs are struggling to keep its print and online newspapers afloat as journalism continues to change. Editors and advisers attribute these challenges to lack of interest and participation from students. The Meter at Tennessee State University was once an award-winning weekly paper and a website updated frequently with breaking news. The paper is now printed monthly, and the website is defunct. James Stephens, The Meter adviser said, “It has a lot to do with bodies, just finding students who are interested in working on paper.” And Tennessee State University isn’t the only HBCU facing this issue.
Jackson State University, Langston University, Hampton University, Prairie View A&M and Fisk University are among the many HBCUs facing difficulties in maintaining the tradition of journalism. Gwendolyn Denwiddie, a recent Fisk graduate, along with the student government association, revived Fisk’s student newspaper, The Fisk Forum, which had not been published since 1998. Since her freshman year Denwiddie had been determined to resurrect the paper. It wasn’t until her senior year her vision came to fruition.
A number of students have bought into the notion that print journalism is dying. Other students interested in broadcast journalism are oblivious as to why an on-air reporter would need strong writing skills. Whatever the cause is for the decline in interest, HBCU’s must continue to fight to keep its students informed through campus newspapers.
Dr. Valerie White, a journalism professor at Florida A&M University and chairwoman of the Black College Communication Association, says, “HBCUs need to provide the educational and training tools that students need to be successful in the ever changing journalism industry. And university administrators need to vow not to interfere with journalists as they learn and practice their craft.”
Lewis Smith, journalism instructor at Prairie View A&M University and adviser to The Panther, says, “I’m seeing a decline in the number of students interested in print journalism because of the current state of the industry … they read about the cutbacks.”