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Print lives on: Battalion newsroom receives press freedom award from national nonprofit

The Student Press Law Center recognizes the Battalion for their fight to keep the paper in print
Posted at 6:23 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 19:23:46-04

Print is not dead – a sentiment echoed by thousands of Aggies this year.

Back in February 2022, journalists with Texas A&M’s student newspaper, the Battalion, stood up to university administration and defended what they consider their right to print, after being ordered to stop the presses.

Now, the first amendment nonprofit Student Press Law Center [SPLC] has honored the Battalion with a new award for press freedom.

Texas A&M president M. Katherine Banks had ordered the student paper to stop their weekly printing process earlier this year, instructing the newsroom to focus exclusively on publishing online.

A former faculty advisor, Douglas Pils, had told KRHD that refusal to do this would strip the paper of important resources, such as its newsroom space.

Arguing that not only is the paper fully funded by private advertising and donations, and not university dollars, the students pushed back against Banks. And still, to this day, the public can pick up a physical copy of the Battalion on campus.

"I think people have realized that we know what we’re doing, and we take responsibility for our actions," said Michaela Rush, Aggie senior, and editor-in-chief of the Battalion. "We are self-sufficient and self-sustaining. I think now that people know that, they are more respectful of the fact that we have a job to do.”

The SPLC invited Battalion staff to an awards ceremony last week in Washington, D.C. A brand new award for press freedom had been created and given to the Aggie publication on stage.

The award honors the Battalion staff on what the SPLC says is ‘brave advocacy on behalf of a free student press,’ commending the reporting that these students did in response to the directive from Banks. That period of reporting on the university's actions was formative for the students, according to Rush.

“It was a really amazing bonding experience for our entire staff, and we just really got closer because of it, because we were advocating for something we really cared about," Rush said.

Banks had explained her position to Texas A&M Today, noting that she’d like to see the Battalion as a part of a state-of-the-art university journalism degree program. She explains in that February article that she wants students to focus on a future that is digital.

“Times have changed and we want the Battalion and others interested in journalism as a profession to be at the forefront when they graduate," she is quoted.

Banks made further remarks about her decision here:

Remarks to the Texas A&M University Student Senate | Office of the President | Texas A&M University (tamu.edu)

The students have argued that a print edition is still important to them.

“The main thing is, if students weren’t still picking it up and we weren't still making money off of it, we wouldn’t do it," Rush said. "But we do. And it’s an incredible experience for us in a pre-professional setting.”