And though online readership has increased, this is still not enough to offset the sharp decline in print readership. Furthermore, younger generations increasingly use social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Twitter in order to get their daily news.
Some of the difficulties The Hilltop Monitor faces now are reflective of these broader problems in the journalism industry. The past two years have seen a decrease in readership for The Hilltop Monitor and a decrease in the volume of articles published each issue. There is less incentive for students to write involved articles on a weekly basis when information and gossip can be easily shared in a quick YikYak. And reading these posts takes almost no effort at all – all the more convenient for the bogged-down college student trying to make it through undergraduate classes.
But if this past year as Chief Editor has shown me anything, it’s that local news coverage – and in particular, coverage of campus events – is crucial to the development of a good college community. William Jewell College is undergoing a great deal of change. A sizable chunk of the faculty has retired or will retire soon. New programs and minors such as the Faith and Culture Center and the ancient Mediterranean studies minor respectively are being added next year. The institution is committing itself to values of radical inclusivity, diversity, access, and equity. The administration has ambitious plans for the College moving forward – they are attempting to increase the size of the student body and provide highest quality education and highest access to that education.
And while social media sites like TikTok and YikYak are useful for getting bite-sized morsels of information, they are by nature inadequate for giving a comprehensive account of the changes at Jewell. Thus, the importance of student journalism cannot be understated. Student journalists are tasked with investigating and reporting on those issues which are most pertinent to the members of the community (and to prospective students who want information on the culture and programs of the College).
More than keeping the community informed about important changes, student journalism itself keeps the institution accountable throughout its ongoing metamorphosis. For example, this year The Hilltop Monitor has covered an ongoing, institutional conversation concerning the nature and value of student and faculty academic freedom. Where information on this conversation was often difficult to obtain or difficult to wrap one’s head around, The Hilltop Monitor’s staff worked tirelessly to disseminate key points to the community.
My time as Chief Editor is almost complete. I am grateful to my wonderful staff for writing substantive and well-researched stories on all sorts of subjects. I know that the staff will continue to do excellent work. And you, dear reader, are encouraged to participate in student journalism – whether as a reader or a member of the writing staff. In doing so, you will contribute to the proper development of Jewell as an institution.