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Monday, May 25, 2020

The Times they are a-changin’

In June, the Associated Students Board of Directors cut the funding previously allocated for student access to The New York Times from the AS budget. The decision was made unanimously in a 6-0 vote.

The board said The New York Times only reached 400 readers and reasoned that a subscription to The Wall Street Journal could be more cost-effective. The board decided to leave the decision of implementing a new subscription to the following year of directors, according to the minutes from their June meeting.

When students returned for fall quarter, they no longer had access to a reputable news source they once utilized.

In a time of political change and upheaval, it’s more essential than ever for the Western community to have access to multiple media outlets.

Almost every day there is a new issue up for discussion in our nation. Leadership has changed significantly, legislation is being proposed constantly and tensions in the Senate and House are rising. In the last year alone, heated disagreements resurfaced regarding health care, climate change and gun control.

So why we don’t we stay more in tune when such important changes are up for consideration?

Over the course of the last few years, the ways in which people consume information and communicate have changed drastically. The transition from print newspapers to online news sources along with the advent of social media means that many of us turn to our phones for news. Although these advancements have made access to information faster, they can do more harm than good if not handled with care.

Last year, two-thirds of adults in the United States reported that they got their news from social media, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. In the same study, 64 percent of participants said that fabricated online news stories have caused confusion about the facts on current events and issues.

According to the American Economic Association, less than 20 percent of Facebook user’s ‘friends list’ are made up of people who believe in opposing political ideologies.

The dangerous and misleading effects of obtaining information through social media were revealed during the 2016 presidential election. Many American voters felt they were left with inadequate candidates forced to vote based off of the candidates’ political party affiliations – or, who they thought was the lesser of two evils.

The spread of news and ‘fake news’ through social media effectively polarized the nation, spoiling democracy as a whole.

This is where communication and the press can make or break a society.

To successfully maintain democracy, it is crucial to find common ground in a nation full of ongoing disagreements. It’s difficult or almost impossible to find mutual understanding on an issue if people are against hearing an opposing argument.

The press can bridge this gap by presenting facts from multiple sources and allowing readers to form their own opinions.

This is why it is imperative for our student body to have access to publications like the New York Times.

As the chances of encountering ‘fake news’ continue to increase, how are Western students supposed to stay in the loop when one of their only affordable news outlets has been ripped away?

One reason the AS Board may have considered switching over to the Wall Street Journal is that it could appeal to a larger audience. In another study from the Pew Research Center, The Wall Street Journal had one of the most diverse readerships in terms of political ideologies, split almost down the center of the spectrum. The decision may also have come from a desire to have a news source on campus that appeals to a wider audience. A different Pew Research Center study revealed that 65 percent of New York Times readers identify as politically liberal, meaning that the publication could alienate some students with different political ideologies.

At the end of the day, it’s possible that the AS cut the funds strictly to save money. This leaves many students questioning where those funds are being invested instead and why our knowledge is the first thing discounted to save a pretty penny.

Either way, it’s impossible to put a price on staying informed. Western’s community deserves access to as many news and information outlets as the University can afford to give.

We may still have a subscription to The Bellingham Herald, but maintaining a subscription to a nationally regarded paper is crucial to Western’s community to stay informed.

As students, paying the price of tuition should be enough to guarantee access to publications like The New York Times.

If Western is going to build an informed community, it will begin with the foundation of truthful, unbiased journalism.

The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Alyssa Bruce, Julia Furukawa and Ray Garcia.


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