Research (Vol. 58): The College Newsroom amid COVID

A Statistical Assessment of Advisers and their work in College Newsrooms in 2020

Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, EdD
Florida International University

Elizabeth Smith, EdD
Pepperdine University

Jody Kleinberg Biehl, MA
University at Buffalo

Research Associate: Lillian Abreu, M.S.,
Florida International University


Abstract: This research updates and explores the role and jobs of college newsroom advisers, the context of their work, and the newsrooms they advise. Using a survey (N=332) of student media advisers, the data provide important understandings for college journalism issues that have emerged, or re-emerged, in the past year: COVID-19, diversity, and prior review. Responses show, despite campus closures and some declining advertising revenues, COVID-19 did not halt the work of the vast majority of college newsrooms. On the contrary, data from this survey combined with national trends point to the growing importance of college news media across the nation. As local news outlets decrease, college newsrooms are filling the void.  Open-ended responses revealed anxieties among advisers about how the pandemic would affect newsrooms in the coming academic years, especially regarding budgets and advertising revenue. For the first time, this research collected information on race/ethnicity. Participants were mostly white, although community colleges had the largest group of advisers of color. Responses reveal that 87% of advisers report that they do not edit newsroom content, although responses raise questions about the role that faculty-guided class work plays in newsrooms and how advisers define prior review. Compared to past research, adviser salaries have increased in the past five years and 62% of advisers hold either a faculty or staff title. Overall, salaries have increased 12% among advisers since 2014.

Keywords: college media, student newsrooms, student journalism, newsroom diversity, COVID-19, prior review

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