Archive for November, 2008

Wide receiver and return specialist Bryant Eteuati played in a game for Weber State University’s football team last Saturday.  His return to the field marked the end of a journalistic drama that started about a month before, immediately after his arrest on outstanding warrants for aggravated assault that he’d accrued for hitting people with his car.

 

The Signpost student newspaper at Weber State broke the story, even informing the football team’s coaches when a staffer called them for a comment on Eteuati’s arrest.  Student journalism at its finest!  And people were pissed, seemingly because they believed if the paper had not run the story Eteuati would not have been suspended.  

 

The Signpost

 

Part a local TV news report at the time:

 

The university’s student paper is taking heat from some fans for breaking the story. . . . School policy says athletes facing charges like that don’t play.  But some fans didn’t see it like that, and when Eteuati was suspended right before a big game, they blamed The SignpostThe comments, many aimed at [editor in chief Jessica] Schreifiels, poured in.  Things like: ‘She makes me irate, and she needs to think about more than just herself when she writes. This movement that the football team is in is way bigger then her and her career.’

 

This past month, the paper admirably stuck to its editorial guns, covering every aspect of the student-athlete’s case (from its initial postponement to Eteuati’s not-guilty plea to the plea bargain that concluded it) and its implications for the football team

 

In a staff editorial run soon after the angry fan lashing had commenced, editors wrote:

 

The Signpost did not get Bryant Eteuati suspended. Bryant Eteuati got Bryant Eteuati suspended. . . . As sad as this truly is, Eteuati did this to himself. The Signpost in no way, shape or form tried to smear him or the football team because of some personal vendetta. We reported the facts. It would have been unethical of us if we didn’t. . . . This was textbook journalism.

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Below is an editor’s video introduction to the new Web site for The Aquinas, the weekly student newspaper at the University of Scranton.  The site strikes a simple, easy-to-navigate chord on first scroll-through and it’s always nice to see a publication unafraid to break ranks with the student-Web-overlords College Publisher. 

 

Also, be sure to click on the About page to see a shot of the Aquinas student staff from 1929-1930 that made me smile.

 

The Aquinas

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Since its launch, the most-viewed posts on this little blog of mine have been those with the words ‘sex’ or ‘Obama’ in the headline.  Am I attempting to exploit the blogosphere’s fascination with the latter here?  Absolutely.  (Happy Thanksgiving!)

 

A brief rundown of college media’s Obama-mania on and around Election Day 2008:

 

 

The post-election front page of The Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon.

The post-election front page of The Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon.

 

 

 

 

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The free press battle at The Inkwell appears to be over.  The Inkwell student newspaper has settled a lawsuit it brought against its administrative overseers at Georgia’s Armstrong Atlantic State University over what the paper contended was an unfair funding cut tied to its suddenly critical university coverage.

 

 The Inkwell

 

According to The Athens Banner-Herald, AASU will provide the paper with an additional $15,000 and pay student editors’ $7,500 legal fees, an implicit acknowledgment that the paper’s suit and stance had legs (or at least that there was no positve outcome for the school in seeing the fight through). 

 

The settlement is one of those best-of-a-bad-situation shindigs.  Obviously, it’s good news for free press advocates, the Inkwell‘s coffers and hopefully in turn for its editorial coverage.  It’s just a shame the whole thing had to involve lawyers and billable hours and public statements of animosity.

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Brent Hurd, an American documentary filmmaker and visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, died this past weekend after being hit by a bus while bicycling in Bangalore, India.  I am blogging about this to ensure some small measure of rememberance for a life cut short and also because the headline of The Times of India story reporting on the accident just honestly bothers me.

 

The story itself is fine- seemingly factual, decent background on short notice, nice job tracking down alternate sources, including Hurd’s Web site.  But the header irks me: “BMTC crushes American professor.”  (BMTC is the well-known acronym in that part of India for the bus company.)

 

Even in the betwixt topsy-turvydom of our new media age, I do still hold the basic rules of headline writing as sacred.  And this hed at first glance follows many of the traditional tenets.  It’s active and present-tense with an alive-and-kicking verb and a bit of context/teaser without red-alerting into info overload.

 

But it’s just damn insensitive.   The guy is gone.  The accident is tragic.  Does the use of the word ‘crush’ not just add insult to the beyond-injurious suffering of his loved ones?  And as a student who first saw the story mentioned to me, “It almost sounds like the paper is trying to paint it as a positive,” like a sports header (a recent one, obtained through a quick check of Google News, “Ravens Crush Mistake-Prone Eagles”).

 

Is it just me?  What do you think?

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As I wrote in early October, “The story of the student press so far this semester: The existence of the first sustained crack in college print papers’ seeming invincibility to the online takeover and economic downturn.”

 

Since then, the economy has continued to collapse faster than Amy Winehouse’s career, prompting an unprecedented ad-revenue slowdown and a cost-cutting mentality at some student papers nationwide, according to a new Daily Princetonian report.

 

With the “bottom dropping out of the economy,” as the business manager of The Daily Pennsylvanian put it, the biggest disappearance from the ad blitz of times past’ has been financial and consulting companies, who typically place advertisements in papers prior to appearing on campus to recruit students.  Stanford Daily business manager and COO: “There’s a huge gap between last fall and this fall.  Last fall we had all these recruiters for advertising.”

Insert Your Ad Here

Examples of cutbacks that papers have instituted or are considering due to the ad gaps: The Daily Northwestern is publishing “smaller papers with fewer pages because we don’t have advertising revenue to support our editorial news hole”; and The Indiana Daily Student is “looking at ways to economize in every area,” including staff pay rates and the paper’s travel budget.

 

Interestingly, The Daily Tar Heel continues to be a voice of optimism.  The DTH general manager notes that increased political advertising from the recent campaign season and current reader interest in men’s basketball puts the paper in “a unique position here to do better than some of our buddies.”  This echoes earlier statements about the paper’s financial robustness.

 

Aside from the DTH, is college papers’ current pessimism a sign that the end is growing ever-nearer for their print news products?  As I’ve stated before, I don’t think so.  This latest report and the in-the-red reality it presents for some papers is simply proof that college newspapers are not immune from the economic doom and gloom.  When an Obama-fied economy (hopefully) bounces back, the financial companies’ recruiting efforts and related ads will return, something The New York Times notes this morning is in the recruiters’ best interests.  And in turn, hopefully student papers’ ad-revenue stream will return to the black.

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We’re never too old to be students of journalism.  Case in point: Clement Alubiagba, a 76-year-old Nigerian grandfather with a lack of formal education but a love of reading, has joined the Times Journalism Institute in the city of Lagos to pursue his long-held dream of being a journalist.

 

According to the Nigerian newspaper The Vanguard:

 

[B]ecause he barely completed his standard six as it’s usually called, which is today known as primary six, he couldn’t practice journalism.  But his quest for knowledge, drove him towards reading every book he comes across, knowing that to be a good journalist, he needs to be versatile and conversant with happenings in the environment.  As a result, he was able to make headway and improved drastically in his vocabulary. . . . Mr Clement wishes to practice as a journalist after his education if only he would be given the opportunity to do so irrespective of his age.

 

If this doesn’t make you smile, at least slightly, you’ve been overdosing on your cynical pills. :)

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