End of an Institution

The Western Herald, the independent student-run newspaper at Western Michigan University (and the paper I used to edit), announced that this fall, it is moving from a Monday-to-Thursday publication week to a Monday and Thursday cycle, with an new emphasis on the paper’s Web portal.

This is a depressing turn of events.  The Herald had a twofold purpose — to provide daily news and commentary to the university committee (a task fulfilled by the ubiquituous and free press boxes scattered around campus and in many off-campus locations), and to serve as a learning lab for the hundreds of students who worked with and for the newspaper through the course of an academic year.

In my day, the Herald was independent, managed by a board of directors and free of university control.  Its funding was 100 percent derived from advertising revenue, and the editor in chief — always a student — enjoyed absolute editorial control over the newspaper.

Now, it appears that a university employee, the general manager, has a greater role over the editorial division.  As the pressure of producing daily papers wanes, so also does the discipline of print journalism.

Web portals are fine in their way, but the mindshare of the university community will inevitably move away from the Herald.  This is a shame, and a reason for sadness.