Journalism matters. Stories matter.


The newspaper industry continues to tank. “Fake news” is now part of our everyday vocabulary. And our president has declared war on the mainstream media, calling it the true “enemy of the people.”

It’s a great time to be a journalist.

Only, it really is. All sarcasm aside. At least that’s the message I’m trying to communicate with budding journalists here at Campbell.

In February, I joined four of our brightest on a trip to Elon University for the annual North Carolina College Media Association Conference. The one-day event happened just a day after the White House selectively banned the New York Times, CNN, the BBC and others from a press briefing — a move that ruffled the feathers of anyone with ink in their blood and a penchant for defending the First Amendment.

It also provided easy fodder for the conference’s opening act — a roundtable discussion featuring a newspaper editor, a broadcast journalist, a pollster and a history professor. Their topic: Covering the Trump presidency in its first 100 days. In front of a group of 100-150 students and advisers, the talking heads went over the dangerous precedent selective news sourcing sets and how journalists should work harder for their facts and rely less on press briefings and pre-formulated information.

I agreed. One-hundred percent.

But as the discussion dragged on, I developed this growing urge to stand up, face the diverse crowd of students who are now (sigh) half my age and explain to them that this has always been the case. It shouldn’t take a thin-skinned president — love him or hate him, you can’t deny he doesn’t take criticism well — and a few jabs at the fourth estate to conclude that the best way to represent and inform the public is through journalism that isn’t force fed by those in command.

Journalists have always been and always will be at their best when they’re challenged or challenging others to walk straight. They’re at their best digging deep to unearth information the general public has limited or no access to.

By the time a New York Times reporter entered the discussion at Elon to talk about how “cool” it was to have access to the Oval Office, I wanted to tell the students they didn’t need White House access or jobs in D.C. to make a difference. They didn’t even need jobs.

Right now, they have the ability to make a difference. A college newspaper can be a fountain of views and can be a springboard for important discussions among students who will soon enter the real world and one day assume the role as leaders.  Of course, I didn’t stand up. I’m not rude. But that morning’s discussion did make me want to have a talk with the students wearing orange.

I’m both happy and proud to say Campbell students seem to get it. Their work this past semester has shown me this — feature stories on being a Hispanic student in the “Build the Wall” era, on living and dealing with mental wellness and mental health issues while in college, on putting aside political beliefs to understand the adversity other people face on a daily basis.

That brings us to Campbell Magazine. This isn’t a newspaper, nor is it Newsweek or Time. It is an alumni magazine whose purpose is to promote Campbell and celebrate the successes of our school, our students and our alumni. We try to do this through storytelling. We try to do this with journalism.

Sometimes, the subject matter gets political. There are a few instances in this edition.

On Page 13, we share the story of Ryan Fournier and John Lambert, students who founded the nationally recognized Students for Trump movement and spent much of 2016 representing the millennial voice for conservatives for national media outlets like NBC, Fox News and Time. We also share the story of Omar Hourani (Page 20), a Syrian-born accounting major whose college career has been marred by the civil war in his native country and whose senior year has been spoiled by Trump’s executive order banning travelers from Syria and suspending travel from other Middle East countries.

Republican or Democrat, these stories matter to us. We’re impressed with Fournier and Lambert’s energy and motivation; the innovative way the two young men from Buies Creek represented an entire generation during one of the most fascinating political movements of our time. We also want to fight for Hourani, a victim of our country’s divisiveness and political posturing.

Good journalism is still out there, and we’ll continue to set higher standards in this publication moving forward. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to preach this to our students — storytelling matters today more than ever. Go out and find the story.

Billy Liggett is Director of Publications at Campbell University and editor of Campbell Magazine.