Student newspapers are underrated

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While student press has suffered the same shrinking industry that larger newspapers have been plagued by over the last decade, I’d argue that now is the most important time for student news to be in circulation — not for the students and faculty (and mostly parents and interviewees) to read, but for the writers and editors themselves.

For all the hype that SFU gives its co-op program, The Peak (and similar student papers across the country) doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It allows writers to foster their journalistic skills by conducting real interviews, write their own articles that aren’t for a grade but for people to actually read, and ultimately get a sense of what it feels like to have their writing commit to news forever.

We can be lauded, or we can be ripped apart in a comments section. Our work can be nominated for awards, or get us sued. We can see our work help push for real change, and, as in my experience with my prior newspaper, we can get it banned from restaurant chains because they “can’t publish stuff like this in a family-friendly establishment!” (In their defense, publishing an article with the phrase “toy-filled fuck-hole” wasn’t family-friendly in the slightest.)

The bottom line is that everything that you end up reading from a student newspaper comes directly from people who are not only struggling to go to their early morning classes, but who are getting a sense of what it is like to work in the fabled real world, where there isn’t a safety net to stop you from doing a bad job. 

I’ve been lucky enough to work for a student paper the last five years now, first as an editor with The Reflector, at Mount Royal University, and now with The Peak as a contributor. I can say confidently that the skills you learn aren’t just valuable for someone in the communication field, but anyone who could benefit from improved writing skills, critical thinking, and working on a short deadline.

These are the attributes you would want to walk away from your classes with, but ultimately don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for. They aren’t dependent on if your prof or TA knows what they are doing, and they aren’t something you get to put on for four months just to try and get through with a better mark. It also looks way better on your resume because you’re getting involved in campus life.

On top of that, though, it’s maybe one of the best ways to feel associated with campus. SFU has a reputation of having no culture, but it seems to me that this university is a place where you are rewarded for what you put in. What better way to feel like you belong than to report on the successes and struggles of the place you’re calling home?

It can be intimidating to think of beginning work at a campus newspaper, but at a time where trying to get any advantage is a premium for students, there’s no question where to start. It’s time to stop reading this article, and start writing your own.