College media reporting during a tumultuous spring

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Community College student newspapers illustrate publishing trends

By Richard Cameron
Cerritos College

What types of stories do community college student newspapers publish on their online sites in a typical semester/quarter? That was the original purposed of a content review of 46 California community college student publications conducted for the spring 2020 term.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” Sherlock Holmes, “A Study in Scarlett” (Arthur Conan Doyle)

Of course, the spring 2020 term turned out to be anything but typical as COVID-19 caused a mid-term shutdown of campuses and a shift to remote instruction. While not intended, the bifurcated study was fortuitous in timing, however, as it appears all campuses will start a new academic year with remote instruction, indeed the whole academic year may be remote.

Slightly less than 40% of California’s 119 community colleges offer associate degrees in journalism, and an important component in those degrees requires course work on the student publication. Forty-six have online publications. The colleges offer multiple levels of enrollment in publication courses, from beginning to advanced, and nearly all combine up to four levels of courses into one newspaper staff, so the mix of experience on a given staff varies greatly from campus to campus. Continue reading “College media reporting during a tumultuous spring”

Navigating disasters and tragedy as a journalist  

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‘Empathy to the forefront’

By Christine Bartruff
University of South Carolina Honors College

A chemical smell. A haze in the air. Broken windows. Abandoned jugs of milk. Through the eyes of a reporter, this was the scene in Minneapolis following protests against police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd. 

Erin Ailworth, Midwest correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, spoke to students via Google Hangouts while she was on the ground in Minneapolis. Ailworth is well-versed in covering heavy subject matter. She’s been The Wall Street Journal’s go-to disaster reporter since 2017, reporting on hurricanes, wildfires and, most recently, protests. 

READ AILWORTH’S STORIES
IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

When interviewing people, especially those who are traumatized by the events she’s covering, Ailworth exercises empathy. Approach people gently, she said, without shoving a camera or notebook or recording device in their face. Start with introducing yourself, and then ask if they would be willing to talk with you. Continue reading “Navigating disasters and tragedy as a journalist  “

Local media leaders encourage prospective journalists

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Community journalism ‘never more important’ than now

By Megan Wehring
Texas State University

The Pew Research Center continues to report on declining newspaper circulation (“its lowest level since 1940”), revenue (“declined dramatically between 2008 and 2018”) and employment (“dropped by nearly half between 2008 and 2018”).

But Frank Blethen, in a Washington Post column, says, “Local journalism has never been more important or sought after.”

And longtime journalist Joyce Dehli calls local journalism “an essential force in our democracy.”

Emphasizing the continuing role of local media in American society, a panel of local journalists visited with college students as part of Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association intern training May 27.

Panelists discussed how local journalists need to earn and maintain the public’s trust. They must tell all the stories of the community. Continue reading “Local media leaders encourage prospective journalists”

COVID19: Telling ‘The story of why’

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Using a health equity lens to cover COVID-19 in minority communities

By Lyndsey Brennan
Kent State University

For the media to cover the effect of the coronavirus on minority communities in a way that is just, journalists must frame stories using a health equity lens, said Nicole Bronzan, senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Bronzan addressed about 60 Dow Jones News Fund interns and their supervisors in a May 27 webinar. 

Bronzan, who worked as an editor at The New York Times before directing communications for nonprofit organizations, said reporters should apply two major principles when covering these communities:

First, journalists should focus on the reasons situations aren’t equitable. “You have to start [the story] with the problem because people don’t always know about it,” Bronzan said. “But don’t stay there. Don’t let that be all the story is about.”

If journalists are reporting a statistic that says black people are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people, they should dig into the underlying causes—such as access to affordable and stable housing and good jobs with fair pay—that led to that disparity in health. Continue reading “COVID19: Telling ‘The story of why’”

Losing grip: Drafts, Self-Editing and Story Pitching as Exercises in Narrative Humility

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Writer-coaching is not a new concept

By Michael A. Longinow
Biola University

Admit it. You wish the writing was better in your student-run newspaper or magazine. The problem is bigger than you might think. But the good news is it’s not all on you as adviser. It’s the students’ thing — it has to be. And your students are probably more willing to make their writing better than you expect.

That might be surprising. We think of students of the generation sitting in our undergrad classrooms as post-literate: stuck on their phones, never touching books, baffled by people who turn wood pulp newspaper pages or read slick magazines. A 2019 study based on U.S. Education statistics suggests more than 30 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, let alone write. The National Bureau of Economic Research, in 2008, said children whose parents have low literacy are more likely to have low literacy themselves — and to struggle in school, perhaps dropping out. So what’s the answer? Not just us. It’s our students. When students help each other figure out how to learn, how to figure out a task like writing, more than just better articles results. Better students, better learners come of it.

Be warned, though: it’s complicated. To learn journalistic writing is an exercise in courage. It’s confrontation — not merely of the blank screen, or the labyrinth that is English grammar, or the nuances of quoting, paraphrasing and attributing fact or opinion. The real face-off is with self. A writer who wants to get published must give up control of their baby, their creation. They must admit that what they have written, how they connected ideas using words, could be better. It might need to be thrown out entirely in favor of a different direction, a different approach.

Continue reading “Losing grip: Drafts, Self-Editing and Story Pitching as Exercises in Narrative Humility”

Fighting the Coronavirus “funk”

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It’s OK to quit your funk.

By Carol Terracina Hartman
Managing Editor for News

As we conduct all the end-of-semester rituals – filing grades, archiving editions, announcing a new slate of editors, hosting our awards banquets, and eventually, clearing off at least one corner of a desk, it’s time to close the chapter on Spring Semester 2020.

Now summer break prep begins: pull out that list of goals from last August and see what was accomplished, what was diverted, what needs reviewing, and what can be tackled over the summer break – research, training, intern development, conference attendance or presentation, tech purchases, check check check.

But wait! That scenario sounds like a past life: Isn’t this what we do when not sheltering at home, teaching remotely, donning masks to go to the market or laundromat, learning how to produce and deliver news in all digital to a terrified readership.

Life is just too uncertain; why pretend everything we knew about life hasn’t changed? Isn’t it best to just wait and see than try to plan and prepare?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s OK to quit your funk. Continue reading “Fighting the Coronavirus “funk””

Research (Vol. 57): Errors, Requests, Apologies…

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A case study of 50 years of corrections in a college newspaper

By Alyssa Appelman, Northern Kentucky University
and Kirstie Hettinga, California Lutheran University

Abstract: Corrections increase transparency and credibility, but college newspapers rarely publish them. This study explores trends in college newspaper corrections. In particular, it analyzes 50 years of corrections at a sample college newspaper and its website. Through thematic analysis (N = 95 corrections), it discusses changes in correction style and content over time. It explores the struggles of college newspapers, as well as the influence of professional news outlets. In particular, the authors identified a shift from early “requests for corrections” to more “modern” corrections that included labels and apologies. It also finds a strong influence of the student editor, who occasionally published specific calls for transparency and accuracy. As student newspapers have significant staff turnover, this study recommends that messages about corrections and accuracy be shared by student media’s consistent forces: relevant classes, publication handbooks, and—perhaps most importantly—faculty advisers.

Keywords: Corrections, Accuracy, Transparency, Classes, Handbooks, Advisers

Method: Thematic Analysis Continue reading “Research (Vol. 57): Errors, Requests, Apologies…”

Top tips for launching a college media research project

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Balancing Act: Launching a research program requires give-and-take

By Carol Terracina Hartman

The description in the NYC09 program for a faculty adviser session appeared pretty straightforward: “Academic Research: Launching a Program.” It drew a packed room.

Research Director Vince Filak, UW-Oshkosh Professor and then-adviser of The Advance-Titan, led the session, and he opened by suggesting looking at one’s own campus media newsroom to start.

The choice begins with deciding whether to pursue inductive vs. deductive research:

Start with a problem in the newsroom and translate to a trend and find appropriate theory, such as social learning theory. Or, start with a theory, such as framing, and develop a measure, “How do we cover X?” with women in sports, climate change, crime, mental health, or other news topics as possible substitutes for ‘X.’ Continue reading “Top tips for launching a college media research project”

College media adapt to online only formats

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Adjustments from COVID-19 may mark permanent changes for student newspapers

By Angel Trinh

While universities across the country have suspended in-person classes to limit the spread of COVID-19, the future for student newspapers remains unknown because being online-only until physical classes resume could create long-term changes.

More than 600 universities responded to a survey conducted by the American Association for Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers to gauge the changes institutions are making or considering in response to COVID-19. According to the press release published April 2, 81% of institutions have moved completely online for the rest of the spring term. Of the universities that have moved online, 23% have decided to keep classes online for the summer and 38% are considering doing so.

Student publications have had to quickly adapt to producing web-only content, and some may not return to printing once classes begin again.

College Media Association Treasurer Steven Chappell said the number of student newspapers that decide to move online-only increases each fall, and he thinks he’ll see a larger number make that decision this year than any previous.

Continue reading “College media adapt to online only formats”

Shoot-out participants continue despite COVID-19

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11 photojournalists document city in crisis

Everything was pretty much ready to go for this spring’s Shoot-out in New York City. Then, as with so many other things, along came COVID-19 and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York issued a ban on meetings of more than 500 people.

“The spread of this coronavirus is not going to stop on its own, and we know that mass gatherings have been hotspots for the virus to infect large numbers of people quickly,” Cuomo said.

Under the guidance announced by Cuomo, most gatherings of more than 500 people were banned, including the College Media Association conference.

“Mr. Cuomo’s decision to limit gatherings of more than 500 people was an especially heavy blow to the theater industry, a crown jewel of New York City’s tourist trade. Last season, the industry drew 14.8 million patrons and grossed $1.8 billion,” according to an article in The New York Times March 12.

Quickly, the conference evolved and Saturday sessions, including the critique of the Photo Shoot-out led by Jack Zibluck, were moved to Friday. Otherwise, it continued as normal with 11 participants. Continue reading “Shoot-out participants continue despite COVID-19”