The Post at Ohio University is in jeopardy. Here’s the case for saving it

June 24, 2021 12:20 am

From The Post website.

By Joe Donatelli (Commentary originally published on Substack)

News of The Post’s pending demise is spreading far and wide.

Here’s the gist, from The Athens NEWS:

Ohio University student news organization The Post is at risk of losing its sole full-time employee who raises money for the publication, posing a potential existential threat to a 100-year-old legacy newspaper that’s historically served as a primary source of information in the area.

The publication’s business manager role, currently held by Andrea Lewis who oversees advertising sales as its exclusive source of revenue, has been on thin ice for nearly a decade with its oversight being shifted between administrative offices, culminating to this point where it will no longer exist in a year if the organization isn’t able to independently procure funding for her $45,000 salary.

The Post is independent, meaning it’s not part of the journalism program. Editorially, it is student-run. The Post has long received funding from the school, and to its credit, as far as I know, OU has never used it as leverage. It’s an odd setup, but it works.

The university has its reasons for ending this arrangement, which you can read in The Athens NEWS. School officials may believe they’re acting in the best interest of students, and I’m willing to accept that they act in good faith, but their stated reasoning has not mollified alumni.

Some say that The Post is being held to a financial standard to which the athletics department and various other student organizations are not held. I’ve seen alumni commenting that it’s an essential part of the student experience. Like brick streets and College Green, there has always been a Post. Others mention that this belt-tightening comes at the same time the school refuses to trim its ample administrative costs.

To those points, I’ll add this: The Post has always given Ohio University more than its money’s worth.

The university community relies on The Post to report the news. It holds administrators, educators and student leaders accountable. It gives space to those who seek reform or who represent marginalized communities. It’s a platform for ideas. Posties make little for their labor, but they receive valuable experience. The cost to readers is free.

If you pay attention to current events, you understand how valuable it is to have a news ecosystem that supports a common reality from which problems can be addressed.

What’s the dollar cost of a well-informed community?

And what’s the dollar cost on being able to recruit and educate top students to one of the school’s most high-profile programs? Like many, I received fine instruction at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism – important classes on writing, editing, law, ethics and the like – but the real education came at The Post, covering events, interviewing sources, debating editorial topics, managing, editing and laying out the paper deep into the night – putting classroom theory into daily practice.

This one-two punch of class instruction and hands-on learning has given generations of Posties the skills necessary to walk into a newsroom and become a valued contributor on Day 1 and a standout by year 5 or year 10. The university basks in the reflected glow of its graduates occupying positions of influence. This, of course, helps the school attract top students, and the wheel turns.

If it was my goal to diminish Ohio University’s allure as an esteemed journalism school, I’d start by shuttering The Post.

If it comes to that, the timing could not be worse. At a time when universities are evaluating what value they have to offer the world, The Post is an organization that helps Ohio University answer the question, “What do we stand for?” Right now, on the heels of the pandemic, a great national reevaluation is taking place, both individually and organizationally. Leaders are asking: How are we making the world a better place? What are we doing to help people? How is service part of our mission? It’s the right question. The individuals and organizations that answer it correctly will have a tremendous 21st century, because life is suddenly too short for a shallow raison d’être.

You’ve seen this quote on the Alumni Gate.

“So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellowmen thy country and thy God.” 

It’s been there since 1915. It spoke to students at the University of Padua in Italy before that. It acknowledges a timeless truth. Young people are drawn to higher callings. They’re yearning to find a sense of mission. They want what we all want — meaning.

What do we stand for?

I’ve always viewed Ohio University’s commitment to journalism as a gift to our nation. The journalism program is a testament to its sustained dedication to democratic ideals. It stands as a beacon for free speech and those who will dedicate their lives to it. The Post is the exclamation point that says: And we damn well mean it.

Joe Donatelli is the digital director for WEWS-TV, a Cleveland ABC affiliate. 



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