The power of print and the battle for The Battalion


There is power in print. Historically, newspapers have been compelling, powerful tools to inform people about current events, address important issues and circulate ideas.

This is even truer for small, hyper-localized communities like college campuses. Independent campus papers are vital to keeping institutions accountable and providing students a resource to keep up to date with university issues. Issues like the handling of the Thomas Hall rat situation, which was covered in the Trinitonian, but never formally addressed by the institution.

A campus newspaper functions not only as a means of communication but also as the campus pulse. If you look at any issue of the Trinitonian from the archive, you will find a snapshot of what life on campus was like at that point in time.

It’s easy to forget the impact a print issue can have, especially as the readership of physical newspapers is on the decline. Here on campus, COVID forced the Trinitonian to entirely discontinue producing print issues halfway through the spring semester of 2020, and although we were able to start putting out print issues last semester, we still have not been able to fully return to our regular weekly schedule.

Transitioning to a digital format is not necessarily a death sentence. After all, the Trinitonian is still here, and our website and digital newsletter are popular with our readership–shoutout to our hardworking newsletter editor Gracen Hoyle and web editor Sadie Eidson.

However, something fundamental changes when the printing presses stop. When the physicality of the paper is lost, it’s as if the presence of the paper is lost as well. You can no longer literally pass the news on to your friends, or see all the stories laid out side by side, allowing you to absorb everything going on around campus. Print is presence, and hyper-localized communities cannot afford to lose the presence of their local publications.

It is especially important to recognize the impact of print editions as A&M’s The Battalion—one of the largest student-run college publications in Texas—is faced with the prospect of losing not only their right to print but also their status as an independent publication.

A&M’s President M. Katherine Banks sent an email to The Battalion on Feb. 10 informing them that print editions of the paper would no longer be allowed after the end of the spring 2022 semester. Later that day, the publication’s student leadership was given an ultimatum: The Battalion must either become a part of the proposed new Department of Journalism—meaning the publication would no longer be independent—or remain a student-led organization and lose institutional resources—including their newsroom. Either way, student leadership was told that their Feb. 10 issue would be their last print issue and was given 24 hours to respond.

Respond, The Battalion did. They posted an article on their website on Feb. 11 exposing the situation to the public and declared that they would be producing a print issue on Feb. 17 regardless.

The Battalion was able to garner enough attention that Banks released a statement on Feb. 14 announcing that as the school continued to develop the new Department of Journalism, they would evaluate different distribution options for The Battalion.

The final decision on the issue still hasn’t been made, but we can be sure that the battle for The Battalion is far from over.

Banks may not see the need for weekly print editions from an independent campus publication, but to borrow Banks’ own words: “I’m not a professor of journalism, I don’t understand exactly why [print media] is important to the field.”