Reese: My Last Take — Student Journalism Matters


(Courtesy Isaac Reese)

By Isaac Reese, Opinion Writer


It feels weird to finally reach the finish line of my undergraduate education and write my last piece for The Daily Utah Chronicle. I began opinion writing at the Chrony in the summer of 2019 while finishing an internship in Sydney, Australia — I didn’t realize at the time that it would become the proudest achievement of my college experience. I thought I would simply write my little takes on pet issues and they would be promptly thrown out into the internet’s void.

I didn’t understand how powerful this platform was until I wrote an open letter to President Ruth Watkins. In just a couple of days, I got a call while in class from a staffer of hers requesting a meeting. Here I was — a naive 19-year-old kid panicking in my gender studies course, feeling like an elementary school student getting called into the principal’s office for playground fisticuffs. That meeting with the now-former university president made me realize not only the potential influence of my words but also the power of student journalism and the responsibility that comes with having such a platform.

So, if all I have left is one last take, I want to say this: student journalism matters. It matters as much as any piece you will read in The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, or in my opinion, even The New York Times.

The Chronicle has been around for over 130 years — older than Utah statehood. It has lived through two pandemics, multiple world wars, countless student protests, cycles of economic crises and the rise of the internet age. The Chronicle is a tapestry of Utah student voices through decades of change and in some cases, it’s one of the few records documenting previous events. In 1965, America and Utah were dealing with racism and police brutality against Black Americans much like today. Following the “Liberty Park Riot,” a false rumor circulated around Salt Lake City telling of a race riot scheduled for the annual Fall LDS general conference session. The Chronicle was the only paper to correctly cast doubt on the false rumors. If it wasn’t for the reporting of Chronicle student journalists in 1965, the record of these events would have been largely lost and hard for us to now study. I can only wonder if the reporting done by the Chronicle covering the 2020 Summer Black Lives Matter protests will serve as a historical record for generations to come.

Student journalism matters for the future and understanding our past, but it also matters for the present. The Chronicle’s opinion desk produced unparalleled robust reporting on the 2021 Utah legislative session. Made up of young adults from various backgrounds, our paper offers something unique. Our journalism reflects the U’s student body and the differing perspectives in it, giving a voice to the generation that is frequently excluded from debates on public policy, despite these debates’ huge influence on our lives.

The advantage of Chronicle student journalists comes from our unique perspectives, access to passionate and often radical activists, connections to premier academics and perhaps most importantly, our editorial independence from the University of Utah. Journalism free from the influence of corporate donations, millionaire owners and Utah’s largest special interest is rare to find. Unfiltered by the U’s administration and even student-led institutions like ASUU, it’s at the Chronicle that U students can find raw journalism produced by their peers specifically for them.

If you ask me whether I stand by my writing in five years, ten years or even twenty years, I know I will say yes without hesitation. Even as I go out into the world as a University of Utah alum, I will continue to criticize the U for its failure to protect Lauren McCluskey, its enabling of bad cops in UUPD and its continuing acceptance of blood money from Rio Tinto — a corporation that contributed to a violent civil war and whose fortune is built on the exploitation of indigenous lands. I dream of the day that Rio Tinto’s name will no longer adorn campus buildings — I’ll happily rip them down for free if the U lets me.

During my final desk meeting with the Chronicle’s other opinion writers, we discussed the strengths of each other’s work. My editors talked about my desire to throw a punch at those in power and my habit of emailing my op-eds to the people I criticize — something I know has caused issues for them from time to time. This is where I see student journalism at its most powerful — directly addressing institutions and their corruption. It can fight back against those in power and leave a record of opposition. I am forever grateful for the editors who protected me from retaliation, for the platform I was given by the Chronicle and for the people who have read my work. It has been an honor and I don’t regret a single word.


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