How we talk to each other: Strategies for sustaining student media

Abstract: Student media matters. Through it, students learn about each other, develop peer relationships and build professional experiences. As platform convergence and the gutting of traditional media institutions shift listening and reading habits, many student media outlets face simultaneous financial and technological challenges that reduce accessibility, degrade professionalism, and limit impact for student media makers. How then are these forms of community communication—forms that operate at many universities as independent, critical and financially stable—sustained in a newly forming U.S. state university? And how are student media operated in an era when media products and media labor are expected to be free?

This project centers collaborative student, faculty and staff efforts to organize a student-run campus radio station and newspaper as legacy media in an age of technological convergence. Drawing on the experience of the authors as students, alumni, staff, and faculty advisors across two media projects, our analysis addresses the challenge of how “technological revolution” narratives make legacy media platforms rhetorically obsolete and “old fashioned” at a time of reduced public funding and corporate/university partnerships. While building on real-world examples, the paper foregrounds organizing strategies for supporting a vibrant student media ecology that is responsive to technological change while still grounded in the organizational legitimacy of legacy media platforms life FM radio and physical print.

Bio: Amoshaun Toft is an activist, educator, and researcher at the University of Washington Bothell where he works in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. He has been organizing, training, and making programming for community radio for over 20 years, and he currently advises the campus/community student-run station, UWave Radio.

Bio: Kristin L. Gustafson is a senior lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. Her research on journalism history, ethnic/community media, archives, and activist movements has been published in Visual Communication Quarterly, American Journalism, Newspaper Research Journal, Journalism, and Journalism History.

Bio: Amani Sawari is a UW-Bothell alumna, former Station Manager at UWave Radio, writer and founder of the site She is an advocate and outspoken slavery abolitionist as well as a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow for her civil rights work focusing on protecting the human rights of incarcerated people.

Toft, A., Gustafson, K. & Sawari, A. “How we talk to each other: Strategies for sustaining student media.” Presented at the ECREA Radio Research Conference, 19-21 September, 2019, University of Siena, Italy.

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