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Editorial: Fellow media outlet in debt, help keep student news alive

Courtesy of Illini Media

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We are the future.

That’s what everyone has told us for years, and as journalism students, it’s only natural we are the future of journalism. Whether it’s television, radio, print or online, journalism students will one day be running the media.

And the future of one Big Ten student journalism outlet is in trouble.

The University of Illinois student media organization, the Illini Media Company, owes roughly $250,000 in unpaid bills to its printer and other debts. Illini Media includes the daily newspaper, The Daily Illini; the radio station, WPGU; Illinois’ yearbook, The Illio and other journalism projects.

Illini Media is independent. It has never accepted money from the university, and because of a weakened economy, it is no longer able to survive on limited alumni contributions and advertising dollars alone.

In a conversation with The Daily Illini editor-in-chief Jill Disis, she said the newspaper needs reader help. On Friday, the Daily ran a full-page editorial on the front of their Friday edition asking for monetary support. Disis acknowledged that many changes need to be made internally to adapt to the economy and the state of news media. Disis also said many people were aware of the situation internally for awhile, and they are taking steps to reorganize and become more financially viable.

But it isn’t enough. They need help now.

Disis brought up the idea of using money from a student fee to help support the paper, which she said could bring in nearly $240,000 a year to help the Illini Media stay in business. Disis, however, wanted to stress that this would not compromise the news; it would not influence the writing and the Daily would continue to report the news as an independent newspaper.

We commend the Daily for this. In the middle of a financial crisis that threatens to shut down the company if appropriate action is not taken, the focus is on the news. The focus is on remaining objective, fair and balanced journalists.

This is the future you should invest in.

Disis said the student fee would help keep Illini Media alive, and will be a temporary fix. She emphasized that after Illini Media became financially stable again, it would no longer want to collect the student money.

Roger Ebert, a Illinois graduate and well-known film critic, has taken it upon himself to help revive Illini Media. Through his donations and reader donations, Disis said they have raised about $15,000.

We don’t see it as desperate begging. Not only do we understand the economic situation of running a collegiate newspaper, we live it everyday. The news is important, having a student newspaper, a student media conglomerate is important. The best way we can learn how to become the journalists of the future is to be the journalists of now.

We call upon you, the reader of student-produced media, to help a friend of ours. Don’t let competitive differences stand in the way of your generosity. While OSU might be playing against Illinois in basketball Tuesday, we should all join together for the sake of the news. Give what you can, anything helps, and invest in the future of fair and objective journalism.

All donations can be made at Illinimedia.com.

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