Stauffer-Flint renovation

The newly renovated Stauffer-Flint Hall is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. Construction is currently underway.

Opinion 

In an era wherein President Donald Trump openly chastises the press as “the enemy of the people,” the University of Kansas is investing in its next generation of the free press. 

Stauffer-Flint Hall is currently undergoing a large-scale renovation that has closed the building for the fall semester. The $3.75 million project is being funded through a mixture of private and public funds. When it reopens, a new media center will prepare students for journalism’s clouded future. Above all, student interest in media fields will be tested.

When I first started writing opinion columns for The University Daily Kansan in the summer of 2018, I was a little fish in a big pond. I hadn’t yet felt directly attacked by the sitting president. When I returned to the columnist position for the spring semester, pride swelled when I saw my works in print or being read by my fellow students.

When I was named editor of the Kansan’s opinion section and I began preparing for my upcoming leadership role, I made a decision to pursue the journalism minor at the University of Kansas. Now, feeling fully embedded in this student journalism world and having seen its proverbial blood, sweat and tears firsthand, the president’s attack has started to cut deeper.

You may be thinking, 'Who cares about a student newspaper editor’s hurt feelings?' The situation becomes much more serious when you consider threats made against prominent newsrooms or even real mass shootings committed at newspaper headquarters.

This darkening reality begs the necessity of virtuous, hardworking journalists, especially those who can be trained to operate effectively across the modern landscape. The Stauffer-Flint Hall renovations may be the single most important investment that the campus has seen in my four short semesters as a Jayhawk. In the face of insults, intimidation and actual violence, student journalism is a sacred institution that should be promoted among the top education programs at colleges and universities.

As important as it is to be trained in effectively using media to provide information, it is equally important to our duties as citizens, and members of our communities, to be able to sort through the information that is not credible.

Real time information has never been more readily available due to the nature of social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, but these platforms are only as utilitarian as the users providing content. There is little to stop coordinated disinformation campaigns from reaching millions of users. Although nobody likes to admit it, we are all susceptible to being influenced by the content on our feeds.

From my perspective, the public seems exceptionally under-informed, although I’ve received pushback from peers who claim the public is informed but that it just doesn’t care about the information it receives. In either scenario, efforts to increase public awareness of issues — no matter how big or small — is the most direct avenue to steering our society towards a sustainable future.

As the opinion editor of the University Daily Kansan, I understand the unique responsibility of representing a diverse set of opinions. I pledge to lead a staff that will represent a variety of voices within the student body, a staff who will be empowered to speak its truth at every turn and a staff that will not bow to the pressures of those who wish to silence them.

Elijah Southwick is a senior from Overland Park studying English and journalism.