The IDS must remain independent

Nearly twenty years ago, after an act of anti-abortion violence, I read two articles on the subject: One from the New York Times and one from the Indiana Daily Student. The IDS article was written by an avowed feminist who had spent the previous semester as an intern with the Feminist Majority. One of the articles had an even number of quotes from abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents, and was much more balanced. The other article quoted heavily from abortion rights advocates, with scant mention from the anti-abortion side. Guess which one was more balanced: The Indiana Daily Student or the New York Times?

If you guessed the New York Times, you would be wrong. It was the Indiana Daily Student article – written by someone who had just completed an internship with the Feminist Majority – that was far more fair and balanced. I pointed this out in Hoosier Review at the time, and deserves repeating.

This is not something that was a one-time event. This has continued for as long as I have been reading the IDS. The Indiana Daily Student consistently offers superior coverage of local issues than the Bloomington Herald-Times, and they are often the first paper to cover a local story despite the Herald-Times’ superior resources. The IDS has long been considered one of the best student newspapers in the country, for good reason.

This is why I am very concerned about moves by the Indiana University administration that threaten the independence of the IDS. The IDS is not perfect, and has made mistakes. All news organizations do. But one thing that is clear about the IDS is that the staff is actually trying to do a good job. This is largely because students are building a portfolio and want to show they can do good work as journalists. If the IDS becomes less independent, some of their investigative series could be threatened. This is bad news for everyone.

I admit, I am biased. I have been reading the IDS for over twenty years, but I was also an opinion columnist for the student paper from 1996-1998. Because of that, the IDS will always be special to me. If not for the Indiana Daily Student, I would probably not be blogging today. I would not have done nearly as much writing over the last two decades as I have done. It was the IDS that awakened in me a love of writing that has continued for many years.

Yes, the IDS is having financial trouble. This is not surprising. Moves need to be made to keep the student newspaper solvent. This is why, while I am disappointed that the print edition has been cut from five days per week to two days per week during the academic year, I understand why this has to be done. Both the newspaper and the university need to be fiscally responsible. But through that, it is critical that Indiana University’s independent student voice remains independent. Alumni need to make it clear that they do not want the student newspaper’s independence to be compromised.

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