Editorial: How to improve Augsburg journalism

Editoral Board

As “The Echo” editorial staff, we urge the Augsburg Day Student Government (ADSG) to restructure its constitution and for Augsburg administration to facilitate a new journalism major, something that was eliminated after the 2015–2016 school year.

The importance of these changes have been amplified given this past year; “The Echo” staff remains proud of our reporting but nonetheless acknowledge that we suffered from the same biases that have become the focus of anti-racist conversations on campus. We also recognize that the institution of journalism favors writers who speak standard academic English as opposed to other cultural languages and dialects. We recognize that as “The Echo” exists currently, it favors those able to dedicate time to write articles and conduct interviews while also being full-time students with financial needs. While we offer financial compensation, it is not sufficient with what students can earn working elsewhere and, thus, excludes those who are dependent on outside jobs.

These biases manifest themselves in students from largely white, more affluent backgrounds ascending to leadership roles that dictate the coverage and direction of the paper and, as a result, our team is less reflective of the student body as a whole. As a newspaper, we have tried to broaden our networks and critique our writer/editor recruitment strategy, but there is more work to be done.

Part of the solution is for the ADSG to expand our budget beyond what it currently allots. This would allow us to pay our writers and editors on the level of which they actually work. ADSG failed to reform their constitution this year, so we urge the incoming senators, class presidents and executive board to correct this. Not only is this a move that will help us bolster our web, audio and written content, but it will help more students view “The Echo” as a competitive option into which they can put their valuable time, talents and energy.

More significantly, “The Echo” is staffed by a majority of students with career intentions outside of journalism. This makes “The Echo” less effective at developing journalistic skills that will benefit the direction of the paper as it currently exists. This can begin to be solved by establishing a new journalism major.

To do this, we advocate that both the Journalism (ENL227) and Broadcast and Online Journalism (ENL228) classes, currently under English  department jurisdiction, work with the Communication, Film & New Media Department and establish a new major. The medium of journalism has shifted from one that is solely print media focused to one that necessitates a deeper understanding of various forms of media. A combined effort between the two departments that combines writing skills with a wider knowledge of modern media effectively covers the necessary skill set. It will also create an opportunity for student journalists of diverse backgrounds to learn the skills of reporting in the unique community that exists at Augsburg and the Cedar-Riverside community.

The Communication, Film and New Media Department is well equipped to serve the function of media skill development as it has made changes that include adding a media studio in Foss, expanding technological resources for students and currently offering classes that are conducive to learning video and audio editing. Outside of those skills, classes that foster media literacy and cultural awareness are offered and are assets that are essential for doing journalism well.

These reforms will complement Augsburg’s mission by diversifying the field of professional journalists and fostering creativity in its graduates. It will boost campus reporting as the staff of the Echo can better reflect the makeup of the school’s enrollment and most importantly, it can improve upon the fine tradition of our student newspaper that has remained crucial to our story since 1898.

This article was originally published in the April 26, 2019 issue.