Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Welcome to the sixth episode of the College Media Podcast.  The CMP is a collaborative venture between me and Bryan Murley from the Center for Innovation in College Media.

The podcast’s aim: spotlighting big college media news, standout student press work, and array of helpful and innovative sites, programs, and tech tools.

In our most recent episode, recorded Sunday afternoon, we discussed the recent exchange between digital news guru Steve Buttry and I regarding the advantages and challenges embedded within student press innovation efforts.


Advantages, Disadvantages to Student Media Digital Experimentation: My Response to Steve Buttry Report

College Media Podcast #5: USA TODAY Redesign & the American University Breastfeeding Controversy

College Media Podcast #4: The Harvard Crimson Quote Review Reversal & More Gaming the News

College Media Podcast #3: RNC, Student Newspaper Presidential Endorsements & Gaming the News

College Media Podcast #2: RNC, Princeton Review Rankings, Oklahoma Daily Autopsy Report

College Media Podcast #1: A Red & Black Breakdown

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College media outlets need to start experimenting with digital storytelling more often, more comprehensively, and more boldly, according to Steve Buttry.  In a new post for Nieman Journalism Lab, the news innovation guru (whose perspectives I’m really starting to enjoy) contends “student media have advantages that professional media don’t in experimenting in their pursuit of digital-first prosperity.”

He is absolutely right, although the reasons he lays out all have roadblocks, counterpoints, and undermining truths worth noting.

Below is Buttry’s complete list of cited advantages, along with my instant analysis of their validity— including the realities and disadvantages that need to be recognized.

  • Some student media . . . receive funding from non-market sources, such as subsidies from student fees or university budgets.”  (Yes, very true.  This funding though in many cases is attached to directed-allocation requirements, which probably do not allow for a ton to be spent on digital/interactive/website rebranding awesomeness.  It also may come with official or unofficial strings related to the continual publishing of a print product.  Not insurmountable obstacles of course, but ones that would require lots of meetings and end-of-year budget negotiations.)

  • Student media don’t have the high wage and salary structures of professional media.”  (Great point.  But a vast majority also do not have big budgets.  The little bit the students make through editor stipends and minimum-wage staff pay cuts into finances very, very prominently.)

  • Staff members move on naturally, so restructuring between semesters or school years is easier.”  (I disagree here.  First, student media restructuring needs to include input from students.  And students are not around between semesters or school years.  Second, the constant staff turnover within college media, ironically, negates mass change in some cases.  Students are inclined to fit into the system, keep it running, and hand it off.  Being involved in a major restructuring on top of all that is not what they sign on for when stepping up to run or write for the campus paper.  Should advisers motivate them to do it anyway?  ABSOLUTELY.)

  • Student media shut down or slow down for summer and holiday breaks, giving convenient times for making huge changes.”  (Very true. But these shutdown periods make a prominent digital-first existence scary as well as empowering.  The vast majority of student media are run by tiny staffs who work only during fall and spring.  Yet, a major web presence naturally screams for year-round updating.  As someone who visits way too many campus media websites every day, I can fully attest: Most student news teams have not yet figured out how to produce fresh content during the summer and winter breaks.  Is a dead site four months of the year OK with a digital-first operation?)

  • Student media generally don’t have their own printing operations and their related costs.”  (Agree 110 percent.  This is the biggest advantage, in my opinion.  Cut out or significantly cut back the outsourced printing costs and you can then free up money for digital wants and needs.  The key: getting your funding source i.e. clueless university administrators to recognize that printing cutbacks do not mean they should simply give you less money.)

  • Since most campus newspapers are free, student media leaders don’t get sidetracked by discussions of digital paywalls.”  (OK, but for how long?  Already dozens of high-profile student newspapers are asking directly for cash via pop-up ads or permanently-implanted donation boxes on their homepages.  Bottom line: Money matters are a factor, however small, within students’ digital mindsets.  Do I think mass adoption of digital paywalls will happen within college media?  No.  Is it a possibility though?  Yes.)

  • If advertisers in student media want to reach the student audience, they should embrace the opportunity to advertise in student products geared for the digital audience, where students spend more time.”  (I shrugged when I read this one.  I’ve seen no reports indicating student media are making any real profit through digital advertising.  Many student papers boast few, if any, online ads.  Can a digital-first push help increase those numbers? Sure. Can that increase make up for the loss of ad revenue from a decreased print product?  Less likely, at least in the foreseeable future.)

  • If advertisers just want to support the student venture, they can do that as effectively on digital media (and student sales reps can also sell the feel-good value of helping student media develop a successful model for the future).”  (See above.  Yes, they may want to support students’ digital ventures.  But they undoubtedly also want eyeballs.  And print still has more of them on college campuses.)

  • A weekly or twice-weekly product can serve advertisers insistent on being in print.”  (True.  But this is a daily-centric argument.  Most student newspapers are weekly already.  Is a cutback to monthly a viable option?  I personally think so.  Others may disagree.)

All of Buttry’s mostly excellent points aside, there is one last ginormous X-factor that still looms as a major impediment to mass digital experimentation among student media.  People still love reading campus newspapers in print.  Journalism wunderkind Dan Kennedy: “I’ve found that the student newspaper folks like print even more than us old farts.  [The college campus] the last place on earth where the print model still works: free distribution in convenient locations to a largely captive audience. I’ve encouraged several editors at least to think about what it would be like to drop print altogether, but I can’t say I’ve made any progress.”


Yes, Students Still Read the Campus Paper in Print. I Repeat, Students Still Read the Campus Paper in Print…

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The Australian journalism community is agog and aghast at a recent student intern’s description of her brief time in the newsroom at Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

In an anonymous piece featured in the latest issue of Farrago, a University of Melbourne campus magazine, the student characterized various Herald Sun staffers as sexist, homophobic, transphobic, perverted, ageist, sizeist, and generally mean-spirited.

For example, as she recalled an editor asking at one point about a related story: “’Why are they [the gay community] making such a fuss? It’s been this way for millennia, why change now?’  Although he had a right to state an opinion, the blatant sense of entitlement and privilege in the room was palpable.  A few minutes later, he joked to the chief-of-staff about a recent article on Catholic priests opposed to gay marriage: ‘It’s good to have the Catholics in the news with no pedophilia; although I guess there’s still sex and gays.’”

Overall, in the words of the ex-intern, who has now been identified in the Aussie press as Sasha Burden: “My internship doesn’t leave me wanting to be a journalist. At the end of every day I left The Hun’s immense grey building feeling as if all the life, love and passion in me had been sucked out, and replaced with mud. . . . If Australia’s big mastheads all function like this then I say bring on their decline.  Rip down the banners that have led to media exclusivity and elitism. Huzzah to the future of online, diverse reporting.”

According to The Age in Melbourne, “The article, published two weeks ago in print and online, has since circulated widely on Twitter, sparking a war of words between people in the industry.”  It even prompted the Herald Sun editor-in-chief to write a public letter of complaint to the university because no staffers had a chance to respond to the student’s claims in the article.

The debate seems to center on whether the intern’s observations spotlight particular ugliness in a single newsroom or if she simply witnessed the type of gallows humor and venting valued by journos everywhere who are faced with covering some of the world’s nastier bits every day, on deadline.

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The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s tablet news operation, is dying— or at least dramatically downsizing and reevaluating its existence.  The Daily of the University of Washington is doing just fine– evolving step-by-step in the digital age.

Don’t get them confused, OK?

The two pubs sport similar Twitter handles.  The UW student newspaper boasts @thedaily.  The Daily has just @daily.  This has apparently led the Twitterati to repeatedly mistake one for the other– especially over the last few days as the masses eagerly share the breaking news that Murdoch’s Daily is laying off a third of its staff.

In a blog post yesterday, Andrew Gospe, the UW Daily’s social media manager, shared a screenshot sampling of recent mistaken-identity tweets.  As he writes, “I see around three to five misdirected tweets per day to our account (4,650 followers) from people who are really looking for the other Daily that isn’t a college newspaper (more than 97,000 followers).  With the recent news about the layoffs, the mistweets really started heating up.”

According to Gospe, if Murdoch’s Daily goes under, one unintentional consequence: “[T]hose who manage the UW Daily’s Twitter in the future won’t be privy to such amusing tweets.”

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The University of Memphis has slashed funding for The Daily Helmsman by $25,000 for the upcoming academic year, a full third of the usual financial assistance the paper receives from student activities fees.  Some current and former staffers of the campus newspaper view the dramatic cutback as possible retaliation for controversial editorial content.

According to a Commercial Appeal story earlier today, Memphis administrators and members of the student government have publicly and privately expressed their unhappiness at the paper’s recent coverage and a perceived lack of focus on UM.  UM’s dean of students: “I can’t begin to tell you the examples that came up in [a recent meeting with the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee] about things that the paper did print that seem to have very little relevance or that seemed to touch very, very few students on the campus.”

Hmm.  Those concerns seem strange, nay ridonkulously wrong, given the amount of high-profile stories the Helmsman broke and reported upon over the past year alone.  Staffers spotlit serious campus issues involving everything from retention rates, athletics revenue (or lack of it), and potential crime reporting violations to student-athlete misconduct oversights, student ID card theft, and a rape in an on-campus apartment carried out by an individual living there under the guise of being a UM student.  The list goes on…

So, what’s really going on here?  Helmsman general manager Candy Justice says censorship: “It’s a First Amendment violation.  It’s just one more example of what the Helmsman has to put up with.”

The university says editorial concerns were not part of the fee allocation committee’s funding decision, pointing out there was an overall drop in available funding for all campus groups.

Justice told the Commercial Appeal the Helmsman may be forced to cut publishing days or staff pay due to the budget chop.

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As the world hovers on the precipice of full-blown Olympics madnesseven Mitt Romney is confident the London festivities will be a rousing success– college media summer staffers are set to provide continued coverage from the student perspective.

Already, in the run-up to the Games, many outlets have profiled their own school’s student, staff, and alumni Olympians.  They have also produced more interesting and offbeat news, feature, and commentary pieces touching on everything from Olympics fashion and the treatment of transgender Olympians to sports that deserve an Olympics slot (including Quidditch and yoga) and a fascinating 10-part feature in The Daily Illini on the Olympic dreams of a world-class gymnast that ultimately came up short.

Below is a screenshot sampling of these blog posts and stories.  If you have a related feature of your own, please email me!

The State News, Michigan State University

The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley


NextGen Journal

The Lantern, Ohio State University

Her Campus


The Iowa State Daily, Iowa State University

The Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University

The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech

The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University

The Columbia Spectator, Columbia University

The Daily Kansan, University of Kansas

The Daily Kent Stater, Kent State University

The Daily Collegian, Penn State University

The Daily Bruin, UCLA

The Daily Kent Stater, Kent State University

The Michigan Daily, Michigan University

The Stanford Daily, Stanford University

The Daily Illini, UIUC

PBS MediaShift

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In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., movie massacre, the professional news media are presenting an endless stream of stories about the shooting, suspect, victims, weaponry, and the legal and law enforcement processes.

Many of the reports are directly or indirectly related to students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities nationwide.

While student media are currently in slowdown or shutdown mode due to summer break— boasting skeleton staffs and reduced publishing schedules— the fall semester should not be considered too late to run stories in some way connected to the horrific event in Colorado.

Here are five potentially relevant news angles and spin-off stories student journalists should consider tackling at or near the start of the new school year.

1) Campus gun rules and culture: As the shock from the shooting segues to grief, anger, and soul searching, the gun debate has begun ratcheting up nationwide with renewed fervor.  Impassioned arguments range from those focused on the need for stricter gun laws to those pushing for a relaxation of concealed carry rules– built atop the premise that a moviegoer legally armed that night in the Aurora theater may have taken out the shooter before so much blood was shed.

For a related report, first outline your state’s gun laws, purchase procedures, and concealed carry permit specifications.  Then, more generally, explore your campus gun, and anti-gun, cultures.  Speak to local gun owners, collectors, and sellers about the Aurora tragedy and their larger motivations for making firearms a part of their lives.  Also seek out students or staff who have in some way been affected by a gun crime.  Separately, look into the amount and types of firearms discovered and confiscated on your campus each year, including how many have been purchased illegally.

2) Campus security issues and oversights: The shooting has raised many questions about movie theater security nationwide.  For instance, over the weekend, a Colorado State University student who previously worked at a theater confirmed what most moviegoers have long suspected: cinema security is mostly lax or entirely absent.

As Emily Kribs wrote in The Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU’s campus newspaper, “I worked in a Thornton, Colo., movie theater for one summer, during which we weren’t faced with anything close to the shooting at Aurora’s Century 16 complex.  However, I think we were similarly prepared for one, which is to say not at all.  In terms of security, we had a box around the ticket sellers designed to prevent theft, rather than violence. We relied on peoples’ social graces when we told them they couldn’t enter without a ticket or told them to stop talking. And we never performed pat-downs or examined peoples’ costumes for potential threats.”

Extending Kribs’s observations to the larger theater of academia, pinpoint key safety issues on your campus.  Through objective reporting, confirm the most unsafe areas at your school and within the surrounding community. Highlight student behaviors deemed especially risky, such as solitary late-night food runs or attending house parties in a questionable part of town. Break down the ins-and-outs of the security team and tactics in place for student and staff protection.  Confirm the spots, times, and types of incidents that campus police are notoriously slow to deal with or tend to ignore.

Building upon the shooting’s occurrence at a midnight show, focus especially heavily on nighttime safety. Speak to student survivors of after-dark crimes. Go on an overnight ride-along with local police. Investigate late-night security at campus residence halls, science facilities, and parking lots. Survey students more generally about how safe they feel on campus at night, while alone or with friends, during the week and on the weekends.

3) Enrolled and in mourning: Family, friends, and colleagues of the shooting victims are increasingly speaking to news media about the individuals close to them who were injured or killed and their own shock and sadness– especially those who lost someone they love.

In a much larger sense, students experience loss on many levels during college— rarely as horrifically but sometimes just as suddenly and jarringly as those affected by the attack in Aurora. Sadly, the death of a parent is among the most common losses students face. In fact, one in 10 individuals deals with the death of mom or dad before turning 25.

In spring 2011, outgoing Daily Kansan editor-in-chief Kelly Stroda told the tales of three University of Kansas students who lost a parent during their time in school.  As she wrote in the introduction, “College students who lose a parent are affected emotionally, psychologically, physically, academically and financially.  At the very time they are about to launch independent lives, they lose the people they rely on most for direction.”

Tell the stories of students on your campus who have lost someone close to them, such as a parent, during their childhood, adolescence or as undergraduates. Separately, reach out to the loved ones of students who died while still enrolled at your school. Find out how the families are currently coping, what they are doing to ensure the students’ memories live on, and how the school handled the deaths at the time and in the long term.

4) Crime related: While eliciting nowhere near the same amount of sympathy as the deceased, survivors, and their loved ones, a few other individuals connected to the shooting are most likely in pain at the moment and in need of support: the family and friends of suspect James Holmes.

Of course, as most of the world now knows, when contacted by a reporter about her son’s possible involvement in the attack, Arlene Holmes immediately responded, “You have the right person.  I need to call the police. . . . I need to fly out to Colorado.”

The words are a chillingly powerful reminder: Our family members are often the ones who know us best, and are sometimes majorly affected by our decisions and mistakes. In this case, Holmes’s crime will undoubtedly have a tremendous, long-term impact on his close and extended family.

To better understand the ins-and-outs of this type of criminal connection, speak to students and staff currently dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s criminal activity or imprisonment. Document how their loved one’s crimes or punishments have impacted their own lives and their related struggles to maintain or move past a loving relationship.

Separately, profile students who have a criminal history of their own. Also, look into your school’s policies and procedures regarding student and staff criminal checks, including how the findings impact enrollment and employment decisions.

5) Student dropouts: Prior to planning and carrying out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, James Holmes was apparently a quiet, academically-minded young man. He had recently been struggling though in a neurosciences graduate program and was in the process of withdrawing from school. In no way is the university at which he was enrolled being blamed for his horrific behavior.

But his pending dropout status aligns him with many, many students who do not finish college or graduate school.  At the undergraduate level, the number of students leaving school prior to commencement has risen so dramatically in recent years that the U.S. now boasts the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.

In respect to its commonality, an Oakland University student who had previously dropped out of school even argued this past spring that dropouts deserve a ceremony similar to traditional graduations.

As Daniel Drake wrote in a Mooring Mast column headlined “A Shout-Out to Dropouts,” “[W]hile the graduates are treated as people, the rest of us are treated as statistics.  Every year, analysts write about why some of us failed to complete all four years of our degree.  Nobody writes about all the work we did to make it through one year, or two, or three.  If we celebrate the hard work of those who graduate, why not celebrate that of those who don’t?”

Regardless of whether or not we should celebrate them, let’s start by reporting upon them. Seek out individuals who have dropped out of your school, temporarily or permanently, due to financial, academic, behavioral or general life troubles.

Tell the stories of their student stints and current off-campus lives, including the amount, type, and quality of assistance offered by staff at your school. Also gather and share their advice to current students on the precipice of voluntarily leaving or being forced to withdraw from school.

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