Should The Bulldog Be Put to Bed?

September 5: The fate of The Bulldog Weekly hangs in the balance. 


The student newspaper at the University of Redlands in California currently has no editor, no faculty adviser, waning interest from student readers, and a call by the head of the school’s Associated Students group to cut funding.  The university’s vice-president and dean of student life stated publicly in response that funding would not be pulled completely and that the paper would not simply be left to perish, if the school can help it.  “The Bulldog was an award-winning paper in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” the VP said.  “We want it to be excellent again.”


The paper’s fate-in-the-balance raises an interesting larger question: What’s the best way to turn around an ailing student media outlet?  Is it through a visionary, inspiring adviser at the faculty level?  Through the development of related journalism courses or a fully-established program focused on producing media content (something a news report points out that Redlands is considering)?  Through the installation of a can’t-miss chain of command among student editors that ensures a motivated, knowledgeable EIC will take the reins each fall?  Or maybe the key is to think outside the box: Give students total control.  Open source it.  Place it on Facebook.  Make it a once-a-year event that anyone who’s anyone on campus wants to be seen reading.  You get the drift… 


Of course, the toughest question: Is it ever best to simply let a sleeping Bulldog lie?  In plainer language, how far should a school go to save a student newspaper that no one wants to help run and apparently not many want to read?


My opinion: Universities, like governments, are always better when quality news media are in place to keep them in check.  Quality is what counts.  Having an inferior media outlet remain in existence simply because it can may be great for first amendment advocates, but what good does it actually serve student journalists or their audience? 


Best bet for The Bulldog: Take a step back.  Scale back expectations.  Re-motivate.  And re-launch with a fresh vision that will live up to the excellence of the past.

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