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Consolidate the campuses, not the publications

The Oracle has been a key and editorially independent voice of the USF Tampa campus since 1966.

But with a consolidation of USF’s three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee — looming in 2020, that could change. There are ongoing talks of consolidating The Oracle, and the St. Pete campus’ student newspaper, The Crow’s Nest.

A student affairs consolidation workgroup, led by Tampa’s Dean of Students, Danielle McDonald, and St. Pete’s Director of Student Life and Engagement, Dwayne Isaacs, have begun initial discussions on what student journalism will look like in the future at USF.

Though the idea of a paper consolidation is still being discussed, the only official consideration put forward by the workgroup — without representation from either newspaper staff — is to pursue the options of having an fully-online publication to serve all three campuses.

This, essentially, would diminish both publications.

Sure, the journalism industry is changing, and as such, student publications should evolve with it. However, in order to have a true and fair documentation of the history of a university, a print publication is needed.

Print publications also provide room for advertising. It is the revenue from advertisements that allow print publications, especially on college campuses, to remain independent.

Journalistic autonomy is, perhaps, the most crucial component of the industry. Outlined in our nation’s constitution, the free press is a tried and true virtue of our society.

Another idea being floated by the administrators reviewing potential options is to have a newspaper with a new name that represents all three campuses and includes subsections called The Oracle for the Tampa campus and The Crow’s Nest for St. Pete.

The Oracle and The Crow’s Nest cover issues that are unique to their respective campuses.

Expecting a single publication to cater to the arts and coastal issues that The Crow’s Nest deals with in downtown St. Pete, while also discussing the sports and medical worlds that The Oracle covers in Tampa is ludicrous.

Having to divide resources and time between three campuses will result in a publication, new name or not, being a shell of what The Oracle once was.

The Oracle prides itself on a history of success.

Oracle alumni work at media outlets that include, Oprah Magazine, The Tampa Bay Times, The Washington Post, CNN and ESPN Magazine.

Last year, The Oracle placed as a finalist in the Society of Professional Journalists awards for Best All-Around Non-Daily Newspaper in the Southeast and was cited in an article by The Boston Globe.

In a world where media outlets are already struggling to deal with fake news, how can a student publication be expected to produce continual success stories if its operations are uprooted, displaced and disproportionate?

The answer is simple: It won’t.

Student journalism is not merely a hobby, it is a passion.

It is time that those responsible for making consolidation decisions not only recognize that but embrace it.

The Oracle has proven its value for decades and deserves to be a stand-alone publication. The same can be said for The Crow’s Nest.

A failure to recognize this is a failure to recognize the impact and importance of the free press.