Last Friday, a publication at the University of Houston formerly known as "The Daily Cougar" made a sorrowful announcement. The student newspaper would convert from daily publication to weekly, renaming itself simply "The Cougar." While the publication, which was founded in 1928, did not convert to five days of print until a full 50 years later, the paper had been printing at least four days a week since the early 1960s.
The decision to ax the flagship student newspaper of Texas' Gulf Coast down to the studs is a painful one, but it is all too familiar. Earlier this year, the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees flirted with the same idea for the Texan, though thankfully relented and allowed this publication to continue on with its near-continuous 101-year tradition of printing the news each and every business day throughout the academic year.
The Cougar insists that it will live on in spirit, hoping to be "digital daily and print weekly." The claim is to focus on the shifting needs of students for consuming information, while at the same time cutting back on expenditures. Both are legitimate ideas, but they invariably lead to the decline of the publication's quality.
The Cougar could have continued publishing complete PDF editions online every day, maintaining the same journalistic excellence that marked it for years while still saving costs. Instead, the amount of new news released per day on the website is reduced, and the weekly site has converted into tabloid format, significantly less concerned with delivering breaking news.
The demise of the Daily Cougar leaves only three truly "daily" student newspapers left in the State of Texas: The Battalion, Texas A&M University's newspaper; The Daily Toreador, Texas Tech University's newspaper; and the Texan. The reduction of student press not only hurts journalistically minded young individuals trying to cut their teeth in the business, it also harms the students themselves, who all lose an invaluable resource for local issues on campus.
Horwitz is an associate editor.