Posts Tagged ‘Student Newspaper’

Staffers at The Famuan, the student newspaper at Florida A&M University, will not publish their first issue of spring semester early next week as planned.  Instead, on administrative orders, editorial operations at the paper have been delayed until the end of the month.  The adviser of the paper at the Tallahassee school has also been removed.  And Famuan staff have been told they all must reapply for their positions and “undergo training in media law and ethics . . . [and] more general journalism principles.”

The decision by Florida A&M School of Journalism & Graphic Communication dean Ann Kimbrough comes roughly a month after a student filed a lawsuit against the paper alleging defamation.  The suit contends the Famuan mishandled a portion of its reporting surrounding the November 2011 hazing death of Florida A&M music student Robert Champion, an incident that has placed the university in a harsh, prolonged national spotlight.

As Sara Gregory reports for the Student Press Law Center about the content under contention, “The December 2011 article incorrectly stated that Keon Hollis, a fellow drum major, had been suspended in connection with Champion’s hazing death.  No disciplinary action was taken against Hollis, according to a correction published by the paper in February 2012.  The original article has been removed from the paper’s website.”

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the suit’s specific argument: “[T]he student newspaper failed to ‘exercise ordinary care’ [when reporting on the Hollis allegation], lacked a credible source for its information, and failed to investigate what amounted to ‘nothing more than unverified and unsubstantiated rumor and gossip.'”


Along with the pending lawsuit, there have apparently been issues concerning the eligibility of students involved with the Famuan and other student media and journalism organizations.  According to Kimbrough, a sizable block of students in the past have not met basic enrollment or GPA requirements, a shortcoming current Famuan editor-in-chief Karl Etters acknowledges but says was fixed this past fall.

Meanwhile, the timing of Famuan adviser Andrew Skerritt’s removal is apparently “just a coincidence,” according to Kimbrough.  It is tied to a “personnel issue” no one is speaking about publicly so far.  Skerritt is also a journalism prof. at Florida A&M.

Etters told the Tallahassee Democrat yesterday about the pub’s postponement: “It kind of takes the wind out of your sails. . . . It will help show the public we are taking strides to be a more solid publication.  Ultimately, I think it will be a good thing to see more people trained, but it hurts a little bit.”

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The Emerald at the University of Oregon is welcoming in 2013 with a fun, furious thunderclap of online innovation.

In honor of this evening’s Fiesta Bowl battle between the Oregon Ducks and the Kansas State University Wildcats, the UO student student media group has taken over its own homepage.  The reconstructed web digs feature game-day tweets (all with a #GoDucks hashtag), Instagram photos (including those geo-tagged close to the stadium in Glendale, Ariz.), a reader chat board, and stories from a half-dozen Emerald staffers reporting on Fiesta football and other festivities in person.

The tweets, pics, chat, and content are each presented in their own vertical streams, updated in real-time, making for a fun top-to-bottom wait-scroll-browse-repeat for even casual fans.


Emerald publisher extraordinaire Ryan Frank: “With one screen, you score insight from beat reporters on Twitter, photos that reveal what the TV cameras aren’t catching at the game, and a place to debate big plays or missed calls.  So when the game kicks off, grab a seat, turn on the game and make us your GameDay home page. You won’t regret it.

The special site’s foundation was developed by Emerald staffer Ivar Vong (hat tip to digital journalism wunderkind Davis Shaver).  In a tweet this afternoon, Vong promised to reveal his development techniques in an upcoming blog post.


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The Saginaw Valley Journal has put together a book on the current president of the Student Association at Saginaw Valley State University.  The book is being released in June by the same publishing company that oversees the SVJ, a for-profit campus newspaper focused on the Michigan school.  The company is owned and operated by Michael Westendorf, an increasingly innovative and intriguing figure within collegemediatopia.

The book’s title: “Feels Good Man– The Student Presidency of Theodore C. Goodman From the Pages of The Saginaw Valley Journal.”  (Cover image in screenshot below.)


As the paper explained last week in an online announcement, “Last spring, Mr. Goodman became just the second SVSU student since Armen Hratchian in 2004– and just the seventh student in 45 years– to serve two consecutive terms as president of the association.  The year before, Mr. Goodman eked out a 10-vote victory in extraordinary fashion to unseat Julie A. Boon in a nail-biting election that saw more than 880 votes.”

Upon learning of the news, I asked Westendorf two questions via email.  Question #1: Why?  As he tells me, “It boils down to: we had enough material on him/his tenure for a book, and I’m president of a publishing company.  That’s really it.  It’s not a profit-seeking venture, it’s just a project we wanted to do that might expand our brand a bit, and one that I think will add to our ‘library’ of quality journalism.”

Question #2: Why would this be of interest to anyone outside the student president’s immediate family?

Westendorf: “The reaction so far has been, in a word: amusement.  This, of course, is the type of thing usually reserved for national newsmakers, not local (or campus) officials, but that’s really what our coverage does with the student government here. It truly treats the student government as THE government.”

One folo for Westendorf, when he reads this: What does the first part of the title refer to?  (I’ll update the post when he answers.)

Update, from Westendorf: “‘Feels Good Man’ is an Internet meme that originated in message boards like 4chan and the like. It’s a take off of Ted’s last name (Goodman). During his first campaign, some folks joked that he should have used the ‘Feels Good Man’ meme on posters.”

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The Daily Princetonian is keeping its online commenting system anonymous. After a laudably transparent evaluation process tied to the construction of a new website, top staff at the Princeton University student newspaper agreed with a reader that “[a] few nasty comments here and there is an infinitesimally small price to pay for truly free, unabridged speech.”

The two main arguments in favor of anonymity, from the Prince perspective: 1) Anonymity breeds greater reader engagement.  As editors note, the paper’s “comment boards have earned the reputation as the most active compared with those of the other Ivy League newspapers.”  And 2) It enables readers to feel comfortable discussing more intimate or controversial topics or expressing more unpopular views– without being held back by fear of damage to their short-term or long-term Google prints/reputations.

In a column late last week headlined “We’re Keeping Anonymity,” Prince editor-in-chief Henry Rome wrote, “While we acknowledge that some users hide behind anonymity to make mean-spirited or offensive comments, the benefits of anonymity far outweigh the perceived cost. On a small college campus, requiring names or log-ins that can be traced back to University accounts will stymie public dialogue. As the comments on coverage of the University’s Greek ban or of the suicide of lecturer Antonio Calvo demonstrated, members of our community who are nervous about speaking out use the ‘Prince’ comments as a way to make their voices heard. More recently, the comments on the Love and Lust in the Bubble series show the value of an honest dialogue about sensitive issues of sex and relationships that would not happen without anonymity.”


The Prince’s anonymous pledge is against the wishes of Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman.  As she argued in a letter to the editor late last month, “Anonymity invites candor, to be sure, but it also invites thoughtlessness, not to mention malice and spite.  In an academic community like ours, anonymous comments strike me as entirely out of place.  They are antithetical to our Honor Code, whose guiding principle is that ideas are the coin of the realm.  The Honor Code demands that students ‘own their words’ in their academic work.”

There were 54 comments posted in response to her letter, expressing an array of perspectives.  One retort to Tilghman’s refrain: “Some people use anonymity as an opportunity to be cruel and spiteful.  Others use it as a way to share the truth that should rightly be shared, but which people in power want suppressed.  If the Prince prohibits anonymous posting, then the former will find other forums for their malice, while the latter will more likely be silenced.  But more importantly, as a reader I would rather have the opportunity to see all opinions expressed than miss out on learning about opinions that are unpopular or unfavorable to those in power.  I can always ignore the trolls when they post.  But I can’t read the legitimate critics if they’ve been silenced.”


Daily Princetonian to Stop Using Email Quotes in News Stories, Except in ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’

Princeton Student’s Column Criticizing Annual Giving Prompts Online Comments War

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An interesting column in The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is pushing for greater dialogue about “the brown elephant in the room”: poop.  The call for increased fecal matter chatter is not simply about bettering our physical health, but also getting past “certain assumptions about genders.”

DTH columnist Jagir Patel calls its “poop stigma.”  Apparently, the lack of discussion surrounding our regular #2 activity has led to a societal belief that “[w]omen and poop are supposed to be strangers to maintain an ideal of feminine perfection.”


A portion of Patel’s piece, headlined “Dumping on Taboos“: “My friend recently said her long-term boyfriend gets awkward when she alludes to the fact that she poops. He gets upset, she says, when she talks about her bowel movements. She still doesn’t feel comfortable farting around him, even though he frequently farts around her, and his friends often joke about poops and toots within their bro gang.”

I’ve read Patel with increasing interest this semester.  He’s tackled personal issues including being gay and Indian (or what he calls “finding brown in the rainbow,” instead of “the brown elephant in the room”) and has published pushes for greater dialogue on subjects such as sex and self-pleasure.  His view about that: “Perhaps if we chatted more about our penises, vaginas and anuses, as well as how they can most responsibly be pleased, we would have less STDs and more orgasms.”


Best Student Press Column of All Time?: ‘Poop Bandit on the Loose’

Student Press Headlines That Make Me Giggle: Poop and Mold Edition

Campus Restroom Graffiti Deserves a Fresh Report

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The Arizona Daily Wildcat will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant” in its news copy when referring to those who are living in this country in violation of the law. Instead, individuals who fit the description will be termed “undocumented.”

The decision by top staff at the University of Arizona student newspaper comes at the conclusion of a roughly two-month process that involved internal newsroom debate and solicitation of readers’ perspectives.  In an excellent write-up explaining the rationale behind the change, Wildcat managing editor and readers’ representative Bethany Barnes mentioned that the style issue seemed especially relevant for the paper “because of Arizona’s proximity to the border and how frequently border security issues come up.”


In the note, headlined “We’re Changing the Way We Talk About Immigrants,” Barnes argues “using ‘undocumented’ isn’t about trying to talk around the issue or dress it up as something it isn’t.  Using ‘undocumented’ is about avoiding characterizing someone’s entire personhood by one civil offense.”

As she writes, “While ‘undocumented’ may not cut to the chase, it doesn’t paint a false picture either.  You wouldn’t call someone who was evicted for not paying rent an illegal renter or someone who double parked an illegal driver. . . . But ‘illegal immigrant’ falsely implies that everyone who is in the country illegally is a criminal. Many of the people who are here illegally are here not because they broke the law, but because they were brought here at a young age. As a student newspaper, that situation undoubtedly rings true for some readers.”

My Take: Bravo on the process leading to this change especially.  The editors grappled with a seemingly worthwhile question in a very responsible way, not rushing and instead carrying out the proper legwork to learn about the related issues and perspectives on both sides.  They have been transparent throughout their decision-making and wisely invited reader interaction at the start.  It’s a model for other papers to follow.


UCLA Daily Bruin Loses Letter to the Editor Over Dispute About Spelling of Word ‘Women’

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The most controversial student press story of 2012 went viral before it was even written.

In early September, American University anthropology professor Adrienne Pine published a 4,000-word essay online alleging The Eagle student newspaper was out to get her. Her allegations quickly received national media attention. They stemmed from a story the paper had been pursuing about Pine breast-feeding her newborn daughter during a class lecture.

Eagle staff writer Heather Mongilio had taken on the assignment, while the paper’s editor-in-chief Zach Cohen and other editors supervised her progress. But Mongilio’s name never appeared in the published article’s byline. Instead, she joined Cohen and the Eagle as a news flavor of the week and trending Twitter topic, while caught in a swirl of nasty debate that briefly seemed to swallow the paper and students whole.

Late last month, Cohen and Mongilio gave their first interview about the story and the sudden super-storm that formed around them while they were working on it. Their reflections offer a fresh, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the multi-headed Minotaur that is the modern media scandal.

The scandals are born online, spread in real-time, pounced on by the press, spit on in status updates, and often built around loud voices, larger agendas, and first impressions, facts or full stories be damned. They are also increasingly ensnaring the campus press, almost always attached to an embedded anti-student sentiment along the lines of, “What have the kids done now?”

To read the rest of the story, click here or on the screenshot below to head to Poynter Online.


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