Eighty years ago, seven brave editors at The Reveille were kicked out of LSU after they published a letter criticizing Huey Long and then refused to knuckle under and accept a faculty censor. They emerged as heroes, as a benefactor arranged for them to continue their studies at the University of Missouri and LSU eventually offered them an apology.
Today, the Reveille is again facing a threat, not from a tyrannical politician but from the school’s own administration. An LSU official is pushing to surrender the Reveille’s role as a daily campus publication, trimming the print schedule to one or two days a week.
The idea is finding minimal support on campus and among alumni who love LSU and its tradition of feisty journalism and reverence for the First Amendment. The critics are right that ending daily publication of the Reveille now is the first step on a downhill path that will end in irrelevance and, perhaps, extinction.
Young people embrace technologies their parents struggle to understand, so there may be a digital future for one of the nation’s most storied campus newspapers.
But that future is not here today. The Reveille is more than just a chronicler of the comings and goings on campus; it’s a meaningful business that pays students to write stories, take photos and sell ads. The Reveille’s digital properties do not have the audience — or the revenue — to keep that tradition going.
Moreover, LSU needs a vibrant campus daily more than ever. The university has been damaged by savage budget cuts that should trouble everyone on campus and everyone in Louisiana. To make up for the loss, the school has raised tuition and fees, piling debt on students who are often too young to appreciate how repaying their loans will crimp their lifestyles as young adults. One of those fees, by the way, covers “the University’s student-edited newspaper, which is published Monday through Friday during fall and spring semesters,” according to LSU’s website.
LSU deserves better than to have administrators plan to subtract from campus an important voice that advocates for students. Now that the plans have been forced into the open, administrators are acknowledging the need for a campus dialogue. That begins today, with a public meeting that should have been convened at the beginning of the process.