While celebrating the 125th anniversary of a beloved part of their college careers in March, Battalion alumni were made aware of the newspaper’s current financial hardships and decided to take action.
Within a three-month span, Friends of The Battalion was created and certified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, focused on raising funds and providing other forms of support for the student newspaper at Texas A&M. The model for this organization came from The Battalion counterpart down in Austin, The Daily Texan.
Kathleen McElroy, Class of 1981, a Friends of The Battalion board member and director of the University of Texas School of Journalism, said this organization is meant to support student journalists through funding and mentorship. When UT’s student paper went through a similar period of financial distress, the Friends of The Daily Texan organization was able to help them turn it around, and she is hopeful that this will happen for The Battalion as well.
“I think the idea is to give The Battalion a little bit more support, any support that can be provided beyond what Texas A&M provides,” McElroy said.
Carol Snowden, Class of 1982 and Friends of The Battalion chairman, said the friends model is unique because it allows anyone to join and donate.
“The Friends of The Battalion are not just Aggies, and they are not just journalists,” Snowden said. “All friends organizations are open, and our friends organization welcomes everyone.”
As an independent organization, Friends of The Battalion can use the donated money to benefit The Battalion directly, from paying staffers to increasing the number of print editions. But the collaboration does not end there, Snowden said.
“One of the things we want to provide is mentorship, and in order to do that we wanted to talk to other people who have done the same sort of thing,” Snowden said.
With this idea in mind and five full pages of alumni signatures, Snowden worked with treasurer Angelique Gammon and another colleague to submit a letter to University President Michael Young explaining their goals. This led to a meeting with A&M administrators this summer.
Gammon, Class of 1981 and journalism professor at A&M, said The Battalion is unlike any other campus organization. Journalism is a pillar of democracy, and the only business that is outlined in the constitution, she said. The role of a student newspaper is also consistent with the 1893 charge of land grant universities to educate citizens to make informed self-governance decisions.
“You have charges as a land grant university, we have support from top down from Chancellor [John] Sharp,” Gammon said. “I know money is tight but, you cannot treat The Battalion’s funding needs the same way you treat any other campus activities’ needs.”
As a student-run newspaper, The Battalion is an avenue for students to voice their opinion, and Aggies should not forget that, McElroy said.
“I think what’s really important for students to realize is that The Battalion is not just for a fight for experiential learning; The Battalion is their voice,” McElroy said. “The Battalion is telling them things they need to know, whether it’s online or in print.”
Recently, the department of communication has restructured the journalism degree program, which is now under the label “University Studies, Liberal Arts Journalism Studies Concentration,” and Gammon said there is an increasing need for a student media outlet where students can practice professional skills.
“We are never going to have that degree grow to where its potential is ... if there isn’t a place to practice the skill,” Gammon said. “We have to have student media.”
For more information, please visit https://www.friendsofthebattalion.org/.