‘In with the new…’ Establishing productive work relationships that benefit student media
By Debra Chandler Landis
Ongoing communication between student reporters and the people and programs they cover is key to establishing mutual rapport, trust and respect.
So is communication between editors-in-chief and the top brass of their colleges and universities.
Student editors can help set the stage for ongoing productive working relationships in much the same way executive editors of professional news organizations do when they meet with community leaders, elected officials and others in high-level positions their reporters cover.
Editors also boost respect for student media and quality journalism when they think outside the box regarding news coverage and ask the president or chancellor to support their paper or station’s editorial independence.
Mills, a spring 2015 graduate of Virginia Wesleyan University, served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Marlin Chronicle.
“It is vital,” says Thomas Mills of early and ongoing communication between the editor-in-chief and college officials.
In spring 2015, the paper received a press release announcing Scott D. Miller would be the new president of Virginia Wesleyan.
The Marlin Chronicle did not just re-write the press release. It published a news story in print and online, in addition to a later 30-minute audio podcast Mills and other editors did with the incoming president about his vision for Virginia Wesleyan, his background (which included work as a student and professional journalist), and leadership style, among other topics.
The podcast was posted on the paper’s website, Facebook and Twitter channels.
“It was about two weeks later that we sat down with him and had our podcast interview. The podcast was really meant as an informal way for us, as students, to meet the new president and ask questions,” Mills said. “I also think it was a great way for Dr. Miller to introduce himself to the college. I think he respected what we were trying to do, and I think students did, too.”
After Mills graduated, Kellie Adamson became The Marlin Chronicle’s editor-in-chief in fall 2015.
Among Adamson’s first actions: Ask Miller to publicly support the press freedom and editorial independence of The Marlin Chronicle, despite it receiving financial support from the university.
Miller said he would.
A written statement from Miller runs as part of The Marlin Chronicle’s masthead on the paper’s Community Section.
It reads: “As a former collegiate student newspaper editor, professional journalist and long-time advisor for the Society of Collegiate Journalists. I understand the role and value of student media at a liberal arts institution. Virginia Wesleyan University proudly supports the editorial independence and press freedom of student-edited publications. We believe that student editors have the authority to make all content decisions and consequently, assume full responsibility for decisions they make. –Scott D. Miller, Ph.D., President”
Looking back, Adamson said, “Having a new president for the school made our future unclear. We were unsure of what he would attempt to implement. I wanted to ensure that we could still do our jobs at the newspaper effectively and honestly without the fear of being shut down or censored. “
Miller’s support and his journalistic background, Adamson noted, “helped the paper start off on the right foot” in a new semester with a new president.
“It allowed us to have an understanding that even if the news didn’t reflect well on the school, we were doing it for the greater good of our community, not out of malice. It also sent a sign to the rest of the school that Virginia Wesleyan’s administration was prepared to be open and honest,” she said.
More than 100 students from Northeastern Illinois University campus locations work each academic year with The Independent student newspaper, Seeds literary journal, Que Ondee Sola magazine, and WZRD radio station, according to the NEIU website. Each semester, student staffers meet the public and hear from media professionals during a “Meet the Media” event.
Support for an editorially independent student press is expressed on the Northeastern Illinois student media’s website: “The NEIU Student Media Board, which consists of student representatives from each media organization and their chosen faculty/staff advocates, supports a nurturing environment for University-supported, student-run media of both print and broadcast mediums and their online components and affirms the value of freedom of expression and diversity of opinion.
“The Student Media Board also facilitates working partnerships between the media organizations. As per the Illinois College Campus Press Act and the SGA Student Bill of Rights, the work produced by our student media organizations is free from censorship and is not subject to prior review by University officials.”
Dennis Sagel, coordinator of student media at NEIU, said ongoing efforts to keep communication lines open help those involved “understand where each other is coming from and build mutual trust and respect.”
There will always be stories by student and professional media that are unpopular with university presidents, Miller said. But Miller said he finds that by being accessible and providing information, a university can head off inaccurate stories before they’re published.
Miller, for example, recalls a time a Marlin Chronicle reporter sought comment from him about the university supposedly eliminating the Marlin mascot. Students, the reporter told Miller, saw that a statue of the special fish had been moved and placed in a large trash barrel.
“I explained the statue was being power-washed and moved to the front of the campus where it would have greater visibility,” Miller said.
There is no one sure-fire way for student journalists to establish the kind of productive working relationships with officials that will aid accuracy and robust, diverse news coverage.
But as former student journalists Mills and Adamson demonstrated, thinking outside the box regarding multi-media coverage, getting administrators on record with their support for an editorially independent student press, and continuing to talk with those administrators will help.
Among the more recent online resources on building trust and credibility, conducting news interviews, and producing podcasts:
- Building Trust With Sources | Bob Woodward Teaches … https://www.masterclass.com/classes/bob–woodward-teaches-investigative-journalism/chapters/building-trust-with-sources
Learning how to build trust with sources is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn as a reporter. Here, Bob breaks down his approach.
- The Basics of Conducting Interviews for News Stories https://www.thoughtco.com/conducting-interviews-for-news-stories-2073868
Jun 27, 2019 · A look at the basics of conducting successful interviews for news stories. Includes information on note taking, recording, and transcribing. … For instance, if you’re interviewing the cardiologist and she mentions a new heart-health study that’s coming out, ask about it. This may take your interview in an unexpected — but newsworthy …
- Best Investigative Journalism Podcasts (2019) – Player FM https://player.fm/podcasts/Investigative-Journalism
Investigative Journalism Podcasts. Potcast Oregon is a high-concept, professionally-produced Internet radio show that brings together cutting edge technology, investigative journalism, and engaging entertainment for a 30-minute variety show about the world of cannabis and beyond.
- Podcasting changes face of journalism and audio media https://communicateinfluence.com/podcasting-future-of-journalism
Podcasting changes face of journalism and audio media. With podcasting, journalists have an opportunity to tell a story via audio media and reach a new and growing world of listeners. with a program host.
Debra Chandler Landis retired in June 2017 from the University of Illinois Springfield, where she advised student publications for 23 years. She served as editor of College Media Review for four years. She is a freelance writer and lifetime member of the College Media Association.