College media reporting during a tumultuous spring

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”

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

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”

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…

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

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

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”

Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump: Reimagining the Town Square

Public officials cannot block naysayers from social media

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

The campus quad is a place where students, professors, administrators, staff, and visitors talk, walk, congregate, share ideas, play catch, hawk college newspapers, and so much more. It is a space that has traditionally been open and accessible, with few limitations, not only at public universities, but also at private colleges. In many respects, it is similar to a traditional town square, the open space in the heart of a town where people gather, share thoughts and are entertained.

Because they are open to all, town squares are, by law, considered to be traditional public forums which are given the highest level of First Amendment protection. They are public places that have by long tradition been devoted to speech and assembly. The government has a difficult time limiting speech in such spaces.

A public forum has traditionally been a physical place. But, in the 21st century, we interact in new digital types of public squares. On Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, we meet virtually, instead of in person, to share and debate ideas. Although we don’t throw a Frisbee disc as we do on the campus quad, we toss out our opinions to our virtual communities. What happens then, if public officials try to limit us from access to that online space because they don’t like our opinions? Can they do that? Or is that similar to telling a student that he can’t express his ideas to his friends while traversing the campus quad? Continue reading “Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump: Reimagining the Town Square”

The Big Story: Uncharted territory

Pepperdine group
Students at the March 12 impromptu banquet, one-day after university officials announced they were moving to remote classes for the remainder of the semester.

College newsrooms shift focus amid coronavirus pandemic concerns

By Elizabeth Smith and Courtenay Stallings
Pepperdine University

“This is big.” That was the reaction of Graphic News Editor James Moore when Pepperdine University announced seven weeks ago the suspension of its international program in Shanghai, China, as COVID-19 spread across Asia. Over the next six weeks, as the virus spread across the world, the university eventually suspended all seven of its international programs and closed the Malibu campus, moving to all-remote instruction. James was right— it was big.

Over the past few weeks, university presidents have announced campus closures in rapid succession. While these closures pose unprecedented challenges for classrooms and campuses, they are uncharted territory for student newsrooms, too.

Continue reading “The Big Story: Uncharted territory”

Book Review: ‘The First Amendment in the Trump Era,’ by Timothy Zick

Unique time in First Amendment orthodoxy

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Watching and listening to Donald Trump both at his rallies during the 2016 presidential campaign and then after he became President, Timothy Zick, the John Marshall Professor of Government and Citizenship at William & Mary School of Law, felt that he wanted to chronicle the onslaught of attacks on the First Amendment that he was hearing. Although previous presidents had certainly had terrible relationships with the press, the assaults on journalists as “enemies of the people,” denying reporters access to press briefings because of negative coverage, blocking critics on Twitter, vowing to “take a look at the libel laws,” suggesting that flag burners be jailed, the war on truth, and so much more, felt decidedly different to Zick. He was observing systematic efforts “to undermine the press’ credibility and to turn the public against the media.” And, so Professor Zick set out to chronicle those First Amendment assaults. The result is his recently published, comprehensive and highly readable new book, “The First Amendment in the Trump Era.”

Lest you have tuned out the noise, the book is highly critical of the Trump administration’s approach to the First Amendment. No matter what side of the political spectrum on which you fall, though, this book can truly educate you about this unique time in First Amendment orthodoxy.

Unlike Professor Zick’s three previous books, which primarily targeted an academic audience, this book is pitched to “a wider audience and a broader discourse” about its subject matter. Not only is it intended for those interested in the attacks on freedom of the press in the last several years, but also for those who want to learn more about the history and social benefits of dissent in the United States. Indeed, I found the chapter dedicated to dissent to be the most enlightening.  There are “many serious challenges to protecting dissent and maintaining a culture of dissent” now, Professor Zick writes, and “we need to have a plan of attack to deal with [President Trump’s] anti-dissent agenda and to preserve a culture of dissent moving forward.” Democracy thrives “when there is noise and disagreement, not conformity and consensus,” Zick says, arguing for the “active facilitation and encouragement” of the tolerance for dissent. Rather than feeling compelled to “choose sides,” people “must feel free to speak out” without being labeled “disloyal enemies.” Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The First Amendment in the Trump Era,’ by Timothy Zick”

Book Review: ‘The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, And Richard Jewell,’ by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen

Jewell ‘Caught In The Middle’

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Journalists sometimes get it wrong. When they do, there are clarifications and corrections, new or revised newsroom policies, and a lot of hand wringing. There may also be lawsuits. That was the case when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) named security guard Richard Jewell as the suspect who placed the bomb in Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Many other news outlets followed the AJC in naming Jewell as “the suspect.” Jewell was not, in fact, the perpetrator of the crime. But the FBI had identified him as a suspect, and the media willingly and enthusiastically picked up on the storyline. After being cleared of any wrongdoing, Jewell sued the media outlets, settling with some (NBC paid $595,000, CNN paid $350,000) and engaging in protracted litigation with others, including a 15-year court battle with the AJC.

For many years, I have used Richard Jewell’s prodigious litigation to teach about republication liability in libel cases (one who repeats a defamatory falsehood can be held liable to the same extent as the original speaker). In doing so, though, I did not address, or in fact think much about, the human impact of the error – on the wrongfully named individual, on the journalists, or on the source. In “The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle,” authors Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen provide a powerful, in-depth and highly personal account of what happens to a human being when the FBI and subsequently the news media erroneously name him as a suspect in a high profile crime. As Salwen said during a recent phone interview, “whether you are in the FBI, or the media, or the news consuming public,” this book reminds you that “there is a human being on the other side.” Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, And Richard Jewell,’ by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen”