Daily Cougar fights to get papers delivered by university

In the past month, the editor in chief of the Daily Cougar at the University of Houston took to Twitter in an effort to ensure that all the student newspaper’s print copies made it to the stands.

According to the editor, Jasmine Davis, the Cougar is delivered by a campus entity, Printing and Postal, which falls under Auxiliary Services, because it’s a large campus, “so it just isn’t feasible for students to deliver the papers ourselves.”

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She said papers haven’t been delivered properly for years, and last year’s editor in chief tried to address the situation via Twitter as well. According to Jasmine, after working tirelessly through Hurricane Harvey to get a print edition out as soon as classes resumed, the papers weren’t delivered on time.

“Printing and Postal didn’t deliver it until the day before the next issue came out, so that edition was on stands for less than 24 hours,” she said.

Jasmine said there are problems at the beginning of semesters and when there are weather closures.

“Printing and Postal’s response to those situations has always been that they weren’t able to deal with the increase in deliveries,” she said.

According to Jasmine, the adviser and director would follow the “specific course of action to take when deliveries didn’t happen, but they never saw long-term results.” This system wasn’t working for anyone.

“[W}hat are [the professional staffers] supposed to do when the system in place to remedy these problems is broken?”

The staff was instructed to take photos of empty racks and email P&P, but the campus is huge and the staff doesn’t have the time to monitor all the stops, she said. Additionally, the Cougar is paying for the papers to be delivered.

“[W]hy are we paying a department to do the leg work of delivering our newspapers if we have to walk to all the stands anyway,” Jasmine said.

While Jasmine said she doesn’t blame Printing and Postal entirely, she said no one was holding them accountable and that they possibly weren’t getting the support they need.

When meetings and emails weren’t working, Jasmine took to her personal Twitter to try to get the situation remedied.

Because most of her followers are UH students, professional journalists and current and former members of the Cougar’s staff, she felt she might find some help.

“I knew [my followers] would have a better understanding of why not delivering the student paper is an issue, and I knew I could count on those people to have The Cougar’s back,” she said. “These are people who have been in our shoes and want student journalism to succeed, and I don’t think another audience would have been able to help the way ours did this week.”

But she said the move to Twitter was significant in other ways.

“It’s also important to recognize that student journalists have a lot of power, especially in this age of multimedia journalism,” Jasmine said. We’re in an era where you can report an entire story on social media, and I don’t think accountability journalism should be any different.”

She said she felt she had more power than even university employees and wishes she had realized it earlier.

“I also wonder how many more things we could change just by talking about them on social media,” Jasmine said.

While the Twitter method worked, and the Cougar has been on all the racks, Jasmine said there are other benefits to working through this situation. She said that knowing that the Student Press Law Center would support her, she felt empowered.

“I knew the University couldn’t make me take the tweet down or otherwise punish anyone at The Cougar,” she said. I knew what was happening was wrong, and I knew that myself and the other editors on our editorial board had a lot more freedom to take a stand than our University-employed support system.”

She said she also thinks student journalists need to understand that sometimes they will become the news.

” I think it’s important that student journalists be able to recognize when it’s time to write about themselves,” Jasmine said. “For us, it really boiled down to realizing this issue mattered to more than just the students on The Cougar’s staff.”

She said realizing that the general student wasn’t getting what they paid for helped encourage the staff to pursue the story.

“Not every student reads our newspaper, but the ones who do deserve access to our coverage,” Jasmine said. “Even if they don’t read The Cougar, they deserve for their money to be used properly — not paying someone to do a job they clearly aren’t doing.”

She said the situation also gave the Cougar a chance to make the university better by making sure all departments got the support they needed.

“At the end of the day, student journalists have a lot of power in making sure the University is better tomorrow than it is today.”

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