Posts Tagged ‘Student Media’

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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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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The director Texas Student Media, the board overseeing major student media operations at the University of Texas at Austin, has abruptly “resigned under pressure” only eight months after being hired.  The Austin American-Statesman reports that Gary Borders quit without consulting other members of the board, which is described as “quasi-independent” of the university.

Specific reasons for the sudden departure are murky, but appear to most directly stem from a single UT administrator’s dissatisfaction with his job performance.  The American-Statesman: “Borders, 56, told the American-Statesman on Thursday that he resigned Feb. 8 after Juan González, vice president for student affairs, informed him that he could quit or be fired. González had been unhappy with a proposal Borders floated to sell the TV station’s federal operating license, Borders said, adding that he had dropped the idea upon learning of the vice president’s opposition. Borders said a major part of his job was to reduce a deficit that was $175,000 when he came aboard.”

Former Texas Student Media executive committee chairwoman: “I think the issue here is the actions of the vice president of student affairs without the advice and consent of the Board of Operating Trustees.  It’s troublesome.”

In an American-Statesman blog post this morning, the “complicated relationship” between the board and school is described as “lately . . . a bit tense.”

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50 Best Journalism Schools and Programs at U.S. Colleges and Universities [Updated for 2013]

A faculty colleague in another field recently asked me what journalism schools I would most recommend for her college-bound son, who is apparently an aspiring newshound.  Below is a listing of the ones I offered her in response AKA what I consider to be the best college and university journalism schools nationwide AKA places I would strongly consider enrolling if I woke up tomorrow back in high school.

The list is NOT meant to be all-inclusive or objective.  It is based on nothing more than my personal knowledge of various schools’ and colleges’ reputations, faculty, affiliated student media, classes, and feedback I’ve received in spurts from students and (mostly younger) alums.

It is strongly biased in favor of schools that are exciting me in the digital journalism realm and that are in some way aligned with quality campus media or professional publishing opportunities.  It is biased against journalism programs and departments (only schools included here) and certain schools I simply do not know enough about (although in some respects the fact that they have not crossed my daily college media blogging radar is a sign).

In alphabetical order, here are what I consider to be the best j-schools in the country:

Arizona State University

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication

Indiana University

School of Journalism

Iowa State University

Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

Michigan State University

School of Journalism

New York University

Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute

Northwestern University

Medill School of Journalism

Ohio University

E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Syracuse University

S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

University of Florida

College of Journalism & Communications

University of Georgia

Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication

Kansas University

William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications

University of Iowa

School of Journalism & Mass Communication

University of Maryland

Philip Merrill College of Journalism

University of Minnesota

School of Journalism & Mass Communication

University of Missouri

School of Journalism

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School of Journalism & Mass Communication

University of Oklahoma

Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communication

University of Oregon

School of Journalism & Communication

University of Southern California

Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

University of Texas at Austin

School of Journalism

Please let me know, politely: What other schools should be on the list???  Depending on their merits, I will add them immediately.  (To be clear again upfront, I did not include journalism programs, departments or graduate schools.)

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Last month, reporter Nathan Giebel wrote a pair of pieces for The Current, the student newspaper at Wisconsin’s Carthage College– a news report touching on Carthage’s tuition increase, expenses, and professor salaries and a separate editorial on the college president’s salary.

The pieces themselves were interesting but the real story was embedded within the forms on which they were based, and the journey Giebel undertook to obtain them.  Over three months- and via numerous e-mails, in-person chats, legal advice, and an administration occasionally confused and slightly annoyed- Giebel gained access and eventually analyzed the IRS Form 990 for Carthage and five other area schools.

As explained by the Student Press Law Center, “The IRS Form 990 discloses information about the amount of money the organization has made in a year; a listing of where the money was spent, how much and for what; a detailed balance sheet with the assets and liabilities of the organization at the end of each fiscal year; information on the sale and purchase of the organization’s investments and how they have fared; the identities and salaries of the top organization employees.”

It is a tax report all nonprofit organizations, including private colleges and universities, are required to keep but rarely, if ever, are asked to distribute.  As SPLC legal consultant Mike Hiestand explained, “The valuable thing about the Form 990 is that students attending a private school don’t have a lot of options when it comes to obtaining information about their schools and the 990 is . . . [a] valuable tool for getting behind doors that are normally closed. . . . It’s not always a matter of them [schools] not being willing to comply with the law, it’s a matter of them not knowing the law and knowing what the requirements are.”

The recent 990 reporting adventure for Giebel was a legal and journalistic learning experience.  In a chat with CMM, the economics and finance double major explains the process he went through and offers advice for students looking to make similar requests at their own schools.


Nathan Giebel, reporter, Carthage Current

Write a six-word memoir of your Current experience so far.

I learned; I taught; I grew.

What motivated you to seek out the 990 forms from Carthage and other area schools?

I attended the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention in Austin. While there I learned a lot about various journalism tactics, including investigative journalism. I was made aware of the public nature of the IRS Form 990 and it was suggested that I request a copy to exercise my right to the information. I didn’t really have any intentions about what I wanted to write about, besides that I wanted to investigate why tuition was always increasing and where exactly our money goes. Then I decided to request the same information from other schools similar in size, structure, and location to Carthage. I used that information as something to compare Carthage to, since the data by itself is pretty hard to put into perspective.

What was involved in the process once you decided to give it a go?

First I made an in-person appearance in Carthage’s Business Office and requested the form from the woman responsible for payroll taxes and other tax forms. She had no idea what I was talking about, and suggested that I e-mail Carthage’s Controller.  At first, he was willing to provide specific information to me, but not the document as a whole. Half the time he would not respond to my e-mails and was not overly friendly with me when I made in-person requests. . . . [The Controller] spoke to Carthage’s attorney, who apparently advised him that it was the college’s policy to not release the document, even though it is legally required to do so.

After I cited the exact laws and statutes that require open access to the IRS Form 990, the Controller neglected to respond. At this point in time, I realized I needed direct assistance. I went to my Managing Editor, Carmelo Chimera, who is my direct supervisor.  He has great connections within the administration and was able to explain to Business Office staff exactly what I wanted and that I did not have any slanderous intentions. Then the Controller presented me with the documents and apologized for the misunderstanding. This all took roughly one month to do.

Then, I e-mailed the five other schools (Carroll University, Elmhurst College, Luther College, North Central College, and Wheaton College).  Elmhurst and Luther responded very promptly and were very accommodating and helpful.  Then I sat down and sorted through approximately 275 pages of financial and tax data that I had accumulated and determined what was relevant and interesting.  I also used some information from each of the school’s Web sites to compare enrollment figures, tuition figures, and other statistics.

Bill Abt, Carthage’s Vice President for Administration and Business, readily agreed to meet with me and gave me a sizable chunk of his time to answer some other questions that I couldn’t find the answers to online or in the Form 990. He approved everything I had composed to that point, and was very helpful to me. The entire process from start to finish took more than three months, so as you can tell it was rather strenuous and time-consuming.

One standout memory from the 990 requesting/reporting experience.

It definitely has to be how helpful Bill Abt was to me.  He is the most senior administrator at Carthage besides our President.  The fact that he set aside about an hour of his busy schedule just to meet with me really means a lot to me and says a great deal about the quality of Carthage’s administration as a whole. On the flip-side, it is hard to forget how stressful just getting the information from the Controller was in the first place.

One thing that I should probably add is that my editor, the paper’s advisor, and the administration granted me entirely free reign in what I wanted to write about or print. I think that is really spectacular, and probably unusual for a small paper from a small private college in which the paper is funded entirely by the college itself.  Even if I was printing something negative, I don’t believe that Mr. Abt would have had any issue with it so long as it was in an opinion format.

What stories have you reported based on the forms?

I actually have only written two stories about this information, and they were published concurrently in the middle of February.  The main one was purely factual, as was my intention.  I wanted it to be printed in a completely unbiased manner, since the other schools that had contributed their Form 990s would be seeing it, as well as many other people.

The other one was an editorial that did present some additional information on Carthage, but the main intention was to explain how I felt the data displayed Carthage, and why exactly Carthage looks the way it does by the numbers alone. I also took it a step further, because I really wanted readers to understand that it is impossible to only judge a school’s standing or performance from the figures. You have to dig deeper and figure out why administrators are making so much more than their counterparts at other schools, etc.

What is your advice for student journalists who want to follow your lead with the form request?

In most cases, you are the first person to ever request this information from your institution. Therefore, there is certainly going to be a decent amount of confusion about exactly what you want. The best advice is to be polite, but firm. Make it clear what you are looking for and what your intentions are and be persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it be from a trusted faculty member or a supervisor.  It won’t be easy to get the information, but with a little determination and resourcefulness there is no way you can fail. Often you can find this information online with or, but it’s always fun to try to exercise your right to the information directly through the institution you seek it from just like I did.

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Sara Gatling, editor in chief of The College Voice at Mercer County Community College, has a message for her j-student peers: Spice it up! As she writes, “As I gathered and read hundreds of different college newspapers that were on display at the College Media Advisors Convention (CMA) in New York over spring break, I found an unusually high number of opinion articles on lame topics like over-priced grilled cheese and typical tuition complaints. When did we become so boring?”

In her review, she notes that her ‘let’s get interesting’ call to arms was spurred by student newspaper op-eds and “personal anecdote” reflections centered on eye-drooping topics such as driving in the snow and donating blood.  She credits The Villanovan writers for bucking the ‘blah ops’ trend, in part through offbeat topic selection and fresh, witty writing.  One example: “In Joey Bagnasco’s ‘War of Words Rages on Campus’ about desk graffiti he says ‘I wouldn’t want to be associated with someone who thinks they are a riot because they furtively (and quite poorly) illustrated a male member on a library carrel.'”

Sara Gatling, editor in chief, The College Voice

In one sense, of course her critique is simplistic.  Look at almost any set of newspapers, large or small, student or professional, long enough and you will spot clunkers.  But her observation also strikes at the heart of one of college journalism’s most eternal truths: what I call the SOS SASS (same old stories, semester after semester syndrome). As I have written previously, there are simply some stories among student media that pop up again and again and again, sometimes with a fresh spin, but always with the same core issue or topic intact.

SOS SASS is not necessarily a bad thing. The college media audience (at least the main student one) is ever-changing. Student press staffs are also always turning over. And some issues deserve repeated reporting or editorializing sort of like the incarcerated main character Andy in “Shawshank Redemption” writing his weekly letter for years in order to secure funding for the prison library. But in reality, the same old stories tend to get written simply because j-students aren’t aware or don’t care that they have been written about in the past.

Popular stories of the past should serve as the basis for inspiration, not replication. And editors must strive to push beyond the SOS SASS- if nothing else through a new angle or quirky perspective.  As Gatling wonderfully closes her piece, “Opinion articles may be a student’s only chance to publish a hard stance on a controversial issue. As Michael Koretzky, advisor to Florida Atlantic University’s University Press frequently reminded students at the CMA, ‘You have the rest of your life to be boring!‘”

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In a spirited, wide-ranging Q&A that I strongly encourage you to click on and check out, Michael Koretzky, the incoming director of the annual spring College Media Convention, outlines his vision for a more svelte, conversational New York City experience for journalism students in 2011.

Michael Koretzky is the faculty adviser of The University Press at FAU and the new CMA spring College Media Convention director. Wikipedia: "His appearance has been compared to that of Chuck Norris."

Below are some of the highlights from his chat with Dmitry Gurvits, staffer at The College Voice, the student newspaper at New Jersey’s Mercer County Community College:

LOUNGING AROUND: “The biggest change we need to make [in 2011] is to create something called CMA Lounge. We’ll double the size of the exhibition area and we’re gonna have an area that has couches and tables and chairs and food and drink and most importantly Wi-Fi. I’m going to do my damndest to get Wi-Fi in some area of this convention. Maybe if you’re a convention of urologists you don’t need Wi-Fi. But if you’re a convention of media people, it’s as necessary as oxygen.”

LESS SESSIONS: “The other thing we’re gonna do to improve the convention is have less convention. . . . This convention there were about 300 sessions. We’ll cut that down to somewhere between 200 and 250. . . . [W]e’re going to figure out which sessions hit the mark, on both information and presentation and kinda let the others fade away.”

STUDENTS LEAD THE WAY: “If there’s going to be discussion, roundtable, confab or theoretical discussion, those discussions need to be led by students. Adults and advisers can be there, they should comment, but those are going to be led by students. . . . [Ideally] advisers don’t lead the meeting, they sit in the back and chime in when they have something intelligent to say, so they look really smart. I’ve already talked the President of CMA into giving up the presidential suite during the day, as we did in this convention. As long as we promise not to raid the liquor cabinet, she’s totally cool with that. So next year, there’ll be a lot of sessions in the presidential suites, we’ll have a series of conversations, practical or theoretical.”

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