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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College radio perseveres, adapts to COVID-19 challenges

KZLX’s Nerdmageddon and the owner of a bar named The Pub. From left to right are The Pub’s owner, Jeff Zeller, and then the Nerdmageddon crew: Molly Hauser, Simon Clark, Corie Herzog, and Mckenzie Duval.

It’s not ‘the end of the world’

By Mason Bigler
Special to CMR

Borrowing from Matchbox 20, going to spring break in 2020 was like “waking up at the start of the end of the world” for college radio. Luckily, the world’s not over just yet.

Because of COVID-19, some college stations were abandoned for the spring semester, only on air because of automated systems. Others had to fight for their right to keep student DJs through strict rules and sanitation. As outlined below, some of those rules are still in place, while at other universities, precautions are being relaxed and the radio stations are returning closer to normal. Continue reading “College radio perseveres, adapts to COVID-19 challenges”

Review of ‘The Diversity Style Guide,’ by Rachele Kanigel

Printed revision and update for the style guide

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Originally a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism in San Francisco State University’s journalism department in the 1990s, the “Diversity Style Guide” was a collection of terms from other style guides that existed at the time. That original guide, which was available in PDF form but was never published, was updated and expanded into a searchable website, https://www.diversitystyleguide.com, in 2016. The goal of the website, which is still available and regularly updated, was to “make journalism more inclusive from the classroom to the newsroom.” The website offered “guidance, context and nuance for media professionals struggling to write about people who are different from themselves and communities different from their own.”

While editing the website, Rachele Kanigel, Professor and Chair of the journalism department at San Francisco State University, realized that “there were a lot of issues and context that needed further exploration, and that a book would be a better format for that information.” The result was the book version of “The Diversity Style Guide,” a highly useful and usable tool for students, professors and professional journalists alike. Although published in 2019, what better time to explore this book than now? Continue reading “Review of ‘The Diversity Style Guide,’ by Rachele Kanigel”

Five inaugurations on the front lines with student journalists

Three Doane University students at the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush, the only one of five inaugurals covered by students in which students could get close and actually sit to watch it. The students are, left to right, Amanda (Millard) Memrick, Elizabeth (Zaborowski) Spencer and Jonathan Hoke. (Photo courtesy David Swartzlander)

Bearing witness to democracy on the road presents challenges but pays an enormous dividend

By David Swartzlander
Past President, College Media Association

Attending my first inauguration was a dream come true.

Literally.

After I was hired in 1999 as a journalism instructor at Doane University in Crete, Neb., I was told I had a month to come up with an idea to teach a course for a two-week interval between fall and spring semesters. Students learned through mini-courses on campus or they traveled off-campus for academic reasons.

For days, I searched in vain for an idea. When my head hit the pillow one week before the proposal deadline, I still was clueless.

That’s when I dreamed I attended the 2001 presidential inauguration. And I realized that it happened every four years on Jan. 20, perfect timing for the class. I had my course.

A million dollar view for students from the “cheap seats.” (Photo courtesy David Swartzlander)

Over my 22 years at Doane, I led dozens of students to five presidential inaugurations — from the “hanging chad” election of George W. Bush to the magically historical inauguration of Barack Obama to the “American Carnage” inauguration of Donald Trump. We traveled as one news organization, reporting and sharing stories with students and readers/listeners in Nebraska.

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A pandemic as the unexpected teacher

Finding news in new places during an isolating time

By Susan Coleman Goldstein
Mount Wachusett Community College

“I don’t have any ideas for my next beat.”

This is a common lament, particularly at my school, a small, rural Massachusetts community college, where most of the students enroll in my basic news reporting course to check off an elective. They usually have no desire to enter the journalism field or to even write professionally, unless it’s creative writing.

In the old pre-pandemic days, I relied on our campus for beat ideas. I stood in the classroom and talked about the importance of covering the Student Government Association, for example— “follow the money,” I’d say passionately into faces that usually showed no reaction. But that was okay because then I could take them on a forced field trip, down three flights of stairs to the Student Life Office, where they met Kathy, the woman who gave them the agenda and minutes for the next SGA meeting, the woman who provided contacts to campus clubs, and the woman who supplied background and details about upcoming events.

What about a beat focused on the library? Tutoring services? Advising? The Student Lounge? “Line up! Let’s take a stroll around campus and get to know these people.” Along the way, we often practiced short impromptu interviews in the hallways with passing students. There would be embarrassed laughs, shaky hands taking notes, or the occasional bravado of someone comfortable with talking to strangers, but the lesson was learned: story ideas were everywhere on campus.

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Research (Vol. 58): Freedom of Information in College

How student journalists learn to file public records requests

By Katherine Fink
Pace University
kfink@pace.edu

Abstract: This interview-based study examines the experiences of college journalists who have filed freedom of information (FOI) requests. Sixteen college journalists were asked about specific public-records requests they filed and their feelings about FOI in general. This study finds that college journalists generally learned how to file FOI requests not in the classroom, but rather from their peers. Students filed requests that tended to seek records from their home institutions rather than from other agencies. College journalists were generally optimistic about the potential of FOI to yield newsworthy information, despite that many of their requests went nowhere. College journalists also believed their status as students put them at a disadvantage. Finally, some students recognized that the outcomes of requests were highly situational, based on the records officers handling them.

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Legal Analysis: Nicholas Sandmann v. ‘The Media’

The image and the reports–and seeking the truth behind them

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

We’ve all seen the video or picture, or both. What we may not know, unfortunately, is the truth behind them.

In January 2019, 16 year old Nicholas Sandmann participated in a school trip to Washington D.C. along with other students from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky. Sandmann, who wore a Make America Great Again hat, participated with his classmates in a March For Life rally and then went to the Lincoln Memorial to wait for the buses that would bring them home to Kentucky. While at the Lincoln Memorial, Sandmann encountered 64-year-old Native American activist Nathan Phillips, who was standing in front of him, playing a drum and chanting at an Indigenous Peoples March.

Sandmann’s interaction with Phillips was captured in photos and videos, which went viral. In addition to being reported by mainstream media outlets CNN, the Washington Post, NBC, and others, a video of the encounter was uploaded and widely shared on social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, receiving millions of views. The video led to widespread accusations of bigotry by Sandmann. Almost universally, the media coverage of the encounter portrayed Sandmann as the smirking aggressor. That is not, apparently, what really happened.

Days later, new video provided additional context and showed that the initial media reports had omitted key details of the encounter. In the new video, a group of black men who identify as members of the Hebrew Israelites was seen taunting the Covington Catholic High School students with disparaging language and shouting racist slurs at participants of the Indigenous Peoples Rally and others. Continue reading “Legal Analysis: Nicholas Sandmann v. ‘The Media’”

Book Review: Media Ethics

A Guide For Professional Conduct by SPJ

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Book Review: Media Ethics: A Guide For Professional Conduct, 5th edition, Published by the Society of Professional Journalists, Revised by Fred Brown, editor, and members of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee

There is no shortage of course materials for media ethics classes. Yet, can there ever be too many? I’d argue no – the more the better. That is also clearly the position of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee, which on June 25, 2020, released the 5th edition of its ethics handbook and collection of cases. Both the new edition and the 4th edition, which was released in 2011, are the effort of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, and were edited by long time journalist Fred Brown, a former chairperson of the Ethics Committee and former SPJ national president. (The first three editions were primarily the work of the Poynter Institute.)

In the six years since the 4th edition was printed, everything has changed, and nothing has changed. The SPJ Journalists Code of Ethics still imparts the profession’s collective wisdom, and remains the focus of the book – “the news industry’s widely accepted gold standard of journalism principles,” according to the book’s promotion. Like the four editions before it, this book is organized around the SPJ Code of Ethics, whose basic principles are reflected in many other codes of ethics across a wide range of communications disciplines, Brown said.

The new edition expands beyond journalism to those other communications disciplines and a growing number of technologies. “Media Ethics: A Guide for Professional Conduct” is intended to be used as a college-level textbook in ethics classes whose students are not just aspiring journalists, but strategic communicators such as P.R. professionals or workers in political campaigns,” Brown said. And, the new edition is, for the first time, available in online form as well as in print, to be both more accessible and less expensive for those students. (The paperback is $24.99 and the ebook is $19.99.) Continue reading “Book Review: Media Ethics”

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”