Former Students Support Current Students’ Early Careers
In the hope of keeping the future of journalism alive in the state of Texas, former students entered a partnership that provides new revenue streams for Texas A&M Student Media.
By Mia Mercer ‘23
Photos by Anna Burson ‘24
A group of former students rallied together to create an agreement for new student media revenue streams at both schools with the intention of providing students with opportunities to kick-start their careers while also helping businesses expand their marketing reach throughout the state.
Texas A&M Student Media produces The Battalion newspaper, the cornerstone of Texas A&M Student Media since its first edition was published in 1893; TheBatt.com; Aggieland Yearbook; and Maroon Life Magazine. Through these publications, Student Media provides Aggies in Bryan College Station and across the Brazos Valley community access to up-to-date information on big issues on and off campus.
Due to changing business models, severe budget constraints, and digital transitions, newspapers and magazines everywhere are struggling to survive. Texas A&M’s student newspaper, which predates Aggie football by a year and the 12th Man by three decades, is no exception. That’s why one group of Aggie alumni founded Friends of The Battalion, a nonprofit on a mission to promote the long-term sustainability of Texas A&M Student Media publications.
Carol Austin Snowden ‘82 is a Friends of The Battalion founder, a former student of the College of Liberal Arts who worked at The Battalion, and a supporter of current students. She said her former classmates and Battalion coworkers were inspired to start Friends of The Battalion after learning that The Battalion had undergone major budget cuts.
“We all credited our working at The Batt with launching our professional careers, and we felt we owed the same opportunity to future generations,” Snowden said. “The Battalion dropped from publishing three days a week to only once a week, which further slashes advertising revenue.”
Fewer editions of a newspaper means less revenue. Snowden sought guidance from other organizations who had overcome the same obstacles. She was introduced to Gerald Johnson, head of UT Student Media; members of the Friends of the Daily Texan (a 501c3 NGO created 10 years before Friends of The Battalion to address their same concerns at The University of Texas); and other influential journalists and supporters. They agreed to help the Texas A&M Student Media overcome the same problems Texas Student Media had.
“We needed a business solution to a business problem,” Snowden explained. “Gerald Johnson and I reminisced about having worked with advertising rep firms, where large advertisers can reach their target audiences throughout the country by a consortium of like publications, and he offered to set up the same service for us in exchange for a typical commission. Eureka! It was the financial solution that would bring in more revenue without us having the resources to seek and secure it. It took some time to work out the details and approvals, but it’s an absolute win/win. We’re off to a great start, but there is a lot more work to do to secure the future of Aggie journalism.”
This newfound partnership will provide funding for all Texas A&M Student Media online coverage and print publications, which benefits the entire Brazos Valley by ensuring more reporters are available to cover more issues in our community.
“This revenue can give more students stipends for their work and reimburse students for covering stories,” Snowden explained. “Unpaid work provides good experience, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Many students need income to meet expenses. Our small stipends take away the barrier to them practicing their craft. We also have and will continue to raise money to repair or buy new cameras and computer equipment, accessories and basic supplies for the students because you have to have the tools to do good work.”
Not only is she eager to see the continual growth of Texas A&M Student Media, Snowden said she is also excited to see how this partnership will help the future of journalism.
“What we are doing involves partnership, mentorship, and friendship,” Snowden said. “It’s the beginning of innovative new collaborations, and this is only phase one. Everyone who works in student media is involved in experiential learning and it’s thanks to the experience provided through Texas A&M Student Media that our graduates get a leg up in the job market.”
Snowden is joined in her quest to strengthen the future of journalism by fellow Friends of The Battalion members. The organization’s board consists of Angelique Gammon, Charean Williams, Richard Oliver, and Kathleen McElroy. Snowden serves as the chair. Together, these former students ensure current students have the same opportunities they had at Texas A&M to grow as journalists by gaining hands-on experience in the field.
“Friends of The Battalion believes our students deserve the same quality experience that so many of us enjoyed in our time and prepared us to become successful in our far-ranging fields,” Snowden shared. “[Friends of The Battalion] is committed to sustaining the 128+ year history of journalistic excellence, community contributions, collegiate leadership and providing long-term improvements, growth, and opportunities. We do this through industry mentoring, university collaboration and prioritized fundraising. That’s what friends are for.”