“It’s a positive project in general,” said Nash. “I don’t think the staff seeks to dig up dirt. I think students feel good about the university in general; however, when there is crime they’re not afraid to use a police report and really anything like that is fair game. We want them to feel like they have thefreedom to practice as real journalist.”
Nash spoke openly about the 1960s and ’70s generation of student journalists.
“You had a betrayal of trust during this time in the country,” Nash said. “You had Watergate and the media became a vehicle to express division between people and, I believe, the establishment.”
Nash described the time as one when the one trusted voice, that of iconic CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, had been replaced by an angry and revolutionary spirit in the media that eventually died down with the generation.
“I don’t feel like we’re in that angry media age of us against them,” he said. “I think the leader sets the tone. The leader of the university and the leader of the newspaper set the cultural tone.”
Jacobson said she feels that student newspapers have kept a leadership role over the years. “It’s sometimes hard to apply it to us, because sometimes it’s not relative to the kind of bubble we’re in because of our Christian campus.”
She said that she and her staff strive for “pure journalism,” but under the university umbrella it’s easy for faculty or administration to say, “No, don’t print that.” That’s where the student voice comes in, Jacobson said, to stand up and say, “No, we’re going to be heard.”
“I am such a stickler for ‘if it’s true it’s running,” she said. “This is not a brochure; this is a newspaper. We’re going to print the truth. I think that’s how it has to be. When we stop doing that we stop doing journalism.”
As far as the paper’s impact on campus, Jacobson said she knows people read it. She also said that the paper has a duty to spark conversations—not to stir up trouble, but to elicit feedback.
“When I hear a nursing student on the other side of campus say they read The Accent every week and love it, it feels so good,” she said. “To know that people are interested, that people care, that they want to be informed and they’re still active in supporting us, it’s nice to know that we’re reaching people and to hear comments like that.”
Regarding the competitive nature of campus and other media outlets, Nash said, “The competition isn’t other newspapers. The competition is social media.”
Nash spoke critically about young people with regard to student publication interest. He said people are probably less interested in a student newspaper in the same way that they are less interested in anything that doesn’t have to do directly with them.
Nash said one thing that makes The Accent different is that as a newspaper on a Christian campus, it is reporting from a holistic worldview. “We are in a much more eternal perspective,” he said. “We view this world as a temporary thing. We teach journalism and talk about God in the same breath.”
Jacobson said she found herself pushing against social media and resisting its influences and even technology.
“I guess I just have this belief that when you get down to the nitty gritty, simple, back-to-basics, pen-and-paper reporting is when you get the most pure and truthful information,” she said.
Campus newspapers and the student press may not be what it once was—but then again, nothing else is either. Times and attitudes have changed dramatically since the heady days of Vietnam and Watergate. Young college journalists with a passion for their work are competing in a unique environment—one in which they do not always have the final say on what is printed in their papers—in a changing media landscape they were born into. And if the student audience is not taking note—reading, participating and urging these campus reporters on—then it is they who are doing themselves a disservice.
Esan Swan is a senior at UTC, a staff writer for The Echo and an intern at The Pulse.