When Disaster Strikes a College Community

Coping with disaster... Long Island University and Mercer County Community College. Background photo Brian Birke, Creative Commons.
Coping with disaster… Long Island University and Mercer County Community College. Background photo Brian Birke, Creative Commons.

Surviving Sandy, other storms and a flood–and getting the college paper out

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

One of the most important, albeit seemingly routine, tasks of a college newspaper staff is the physical act of getting the newspaper out.

MugLogo_LevinBut what happens when a crisis hits, as it did when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, only to be followed the following week by a nor’easter?

Among the college newspapers hit by Hurricane Sandy were the Pioneer, the weekly student newspaper at Long Island University Post in Brookville, N.Y., and the College Voice at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey. The College Voice publishes every three weeks.

In anticipation of the forecasted strong winds and hurricane conditions, Long Island University Post cancelled all classes on Monday, Oct. 29. Administrators encouraged students who could to evacuate the dormitories and return home. Approximately 600 students remained in the dorms during the storm.

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Transitioning from the professional newsroom to the college newsroom

From professional reporters and editors to professional advisers: Veteran advisers share their stories

By Alexa Capeloto
John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY

Illustration by Colten Bradford, The UIS Journal
Illustration by Colten Bradford, The UIS Journal

Jake Lowary says he loves advising The All State student newspaper and Monocle yearbook at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. But he recalls “a definite learning curve” moving from professional newspaper reporter to college media adviser nearly two years ago.

The curve can feel steep when reporters and editors become advisers.

On one hand, working with college media can feel like a natural extension of a journalism career. You pass on all the things you learned as a journalist to future generations, and stay connected to news production via a student newspaper, online publication or broadcast station.

MugLogo_CapelotoOn the other hand, professional journalists may have far less experience developing budgets, helping students craft media bylaws and attending campus meetings as an adviser and/or faculty member rather than as a reporter covering the meetings.

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Research Spotlight: Black and White and Still Read All Over

An Examination of the State of College Newspapers in a Turbulent Time

By Lisa Lyon Payne
Virginia Wesleyan College

Abstract: This paper provides an initial investigation of the current state of the college newspapers among liberal arts schools in the southeast. An online survey using both open and closed-ended questions examines variables such as method and frequency of publication, use of advertising and online presence. Only 37.5% of respondents reported having a journalism program at their institution, and those who contributed to the student newspaper came from majors ranging from biology to philosophy. While a full 100% of respondents reported having advertising in their college newspapers, about one-third of respondents reported they did not have an online edition of the paper. Most publications were fewer than 10 pages and did have a faculty adviser to the publication. Of the schools that participated, a majority said there is no class credit associated with their publications. Also of interest, just more than half of respondents stated staff writers receive some form of compensation for their contributions to the publication; where this compensation comes from varies.


What do Twitter, the iPad and a campus newspaper have in common? Current literature suggests that all three are a preferred communication choice for many of today’s college students (The Washington Times, March 8, 2012). Despite the slow and agonizing decline of traditional newspapers, research indicates that even in this modern, wireless world of communication, many college students gravitate toward the print version of their campus newspaper over an electronic version. Additionally, despite the woes of the traditional news daily, many student newspapers appear to be weathering the storm with fewer economic troubles (Keller 2008, Supiano 2012).

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Journalism major not necessarily required

Newsrooms at liberal arts schools tend to reflect the diverse backgrounds of the students

By Lisa Lyon Payne
Virginia Wesleyan College

MugLogo_PayneA recent study of the current state of the college newspapers among liberal arts schools in the Southeast found that fewer than 40 percent of the editors at the Phi Beta Kappa institutions surveyed have a journalism program at their institution. Those students who contribute to their student newspapers come from a range of majors, including biology, philosophy, English, economics, American studies and international affairs.

It’s not uncommon for liberal arts institutions that do offer journalism majors to either require or strongly encourage students to double major.

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First Amendment Mileposts in 2012

Four noteworthy First Amendment cases for college media in 2012

By Frank D. LoMonte
Executive Director, Student Press Law Center

MugLogo_LoMonteWith the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Hazelwood ruling approaching on Jan. 13, the College Media Review asked the Student Press Law Center’s executive director, Frank D. LoMonte, to take stock of the state of free expression rights on college campuses –which, as LoMonte notes, “is a frequent source of litigation, as courts try to make sense of a shifting and sometimes muddled area of First Amendment law.”

During 2012, courts decided four particularly noteworthy cases directly bearing on the legal rights of student journalists and bloggers – including one especially significant case recognizing that the Constitution can protect advisers as well as students against retaliation by public institutions.

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Review: Never In My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism

Book is both moving memoir and fascinating journey into U.S. history

Written by Belva Davis, with Vicki Haddock

Review by Carolyn Schurr Levin

To describe Belva Davis’ book simply as a memoir by the first black female news anchor in the United States is to ignore the inspiration and history lesson that this incredible book provides.  Davis takes us on a journey, from her birth in 1932 in deeply segregated Monroe, La., during the Great Depression, through a lifetime filled with an uncanny ability to overcome obstacles and surpass even her own expectations, to the 21st century, when she has been honored with accolades and awards, including eight local Emmys and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Northern California Television Academy.  Her odyssey can only be described as extraordinary.  Although it may not have been her intent when she set out to tell her story, Davis’ memoir surely can inspire young journalists to take on bigger, even seemingly insurmountable challenges, both professional and social.

Never in My Wildest Dreams by Belva Davis
Never in My Wildest Dreams by Belva Davis

Davis’ memories of her childhood are filled with sadness.  Because her mother, a 14- year-old laundress earning $4 a week, and her father, also a teenager without formal education, working at a local sawmill, were unable to care for her, she became, in her words, “portable – rather like an old suitcase that they would pass from place to place.” Her family fled the racism of the Deep South and headed for Oakland, Calif., as part of the Second Great Migration west during World War II.  In California, unfortunately, life was not all that much easier for Davis.  She describes how, as both a black and a Southerner, she confronted prejudice in school.  She lived in projects.  She suffered from neglect and abuse. She describes a home “overstuffed with people but lacking in affection.”

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Blogs as varied as bloggers themselves

‘You just never know what is going to grab interest’

By Pat Winters Lauro
Kean University

Drake University student Rachel Weeks was midway through spring semester when a blog post she wrote for a magazine writing course about turning a T-shirt into a tank top hit Internet gold – 60,000 hits.

MugLogo_Lauro“She posted a picture to Pinterest and it just exploded,” said Jill Van Wyke, assistant professor at Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Des Moines.  “It was eye-opening.  You just never know what is going to grab interest.”

Now that even the Pulitzer Prize has been bestowed on a blog — The Huffington Post for investigative journalism — it begs the question:  what makes a good blog?

First, blogging is not journalism; it’s a delivery system. Many blogs are promotional in nature or advocacy blogs, an important distinction for students.  But within the profession, what makes a good journalistic blog depends on the type of blog it is, which can be as different as the sports page is from the op-ed page in a newspaper.  Still, Weeks’ post, the blog equivalent of a service feature, possessed common blog elements that resonated with its audience: it was concise, targeted a specific audience and it was interactive.

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Editor’s Note: CMR seeking your feedback…

MugLogo_BerglandHow can the journal better serve you and take advantage of the online format?

In my previous, inaugural column, I asked y’all for payback—that is, to give back to the journal for all the ways it has helped you out by contributing to the journal. The response so far has been wonderful.  Thanks to your efforts and some good corralling by Managing Editor Debra Landis, we’ve gotten numerous good submissions, with six good articles, a book review and a research article in this issue, with more to come in January.  Keep them coming!

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A Matter of Access to Sporting Events

Student and professional journalists dealing with restrictions on sports coverage

By Frank D. LoMonte
Executive Director, Student Press Law Center

Fueled by billions in television and licensing revenues, college athletic departments are increasingly stiff-arming journalists by restricting access to practices and games. Meanwhile, media industry leaders are looking for ways to respond.

The start of football season in August 2012 brought a wave of new restrictions on journalists–professionals and students alike–who cover college athletics. Threatening to revoke press credentials or close practices, coaches at several schools, including the University of Southern California, Washington State University and the University of North Carolina, ordered journalists to refrain from reporting on player injuries observed during practices.

In recent years, colleges and athletic conferences have become increasingly assertive about controlling how media organizations use the information and images they gather at sporting events.

The Southeastern Conference’s standard media credential, for instance, prohibits the sale for profit of any photo that includes recognizable athletes or coaches, and prohibits anyone other than a broadcast news outlet from posting online any game-action video other than video clips provided by the conference. The NCAA maintains – and colleges have occasionally threatened to enforce – limitations on the frequency with which blogs (including Twitter feeds) may be updated with game action in order to prohibit “live blogging” that might draw viewers away from officially licensed telecasts.

In response to these restrictions, the Student Press Law Center and leading organizations representing the professional news media. including the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Sports Editors, have formed an informal working group to exchange information and to advocate for better access policies.

“First, and foremost, sports events are big news,” said attorney Kevin M. Goldberg of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C., who represents ASNE on these issues.  “Not just in terms of reader interest, but in many cities and towns around the country, especially those with a large university prescience, they can often be the biggest business or social issues as well. Second, the restrictions being levied are so outrageous that they simply demand a response.”

“These issues will become more complex and difficult to manage going forward,” Goldberg said. “Sports teams, leagues, venues and events, at the professional, college, high school and local levels are trying to harness technology in ways that make them competitors to the local news outlets, effectively cutting out the local media. They are seeking not only to control the message but commercial aspects of that message as well. They are learning from each other, talking to each other and occasionally working with each other to perfect these restrictions.”

While public universities are governed both by the First Amendment and by open-meetings laws that grant the public a right of access to government activities, there is no clear legal basis on which to demand unfettered access to sporting events.

Public-access laws cover only “meetings” where government policy is deliberated or decided. The fact that an event takes place inside a publicly financed stadium is not, by itself, a basis for claiming a “right” to attend. A government agency can restrict access by issuing credentials, and can impose and enforce reasonable conditions for receiving credentials.

Courts have held that the First Amendment does provide a right of access for journalists to observe important government activities, such as criminal trials and official police activity occurring in public spaces. It is questionable whether a court would recognize a constitutionally based right to insist on sideline access to a football game.

Once access is granted, it cannot be selectively revoked for retaliatory reasons, such as when a journalist expresses a viewpoint contrary to the government’s. And government agencies cannot selectively discriminate only against journalists. They cannot, for example, enforce a policy that enables fans in the bleachers to shoot and share video freely but restricts journalists from doing the same.

Most sports teams specify that ticketholders may not rebroadcast any game action, though it is questionable how that can be enforced. It’s also not clear whether live-blogging or live-tweeting restrictions will actually hold up in court if they’re challenged legally. However, news organizations should consider whether they are willing to forfeit their credentials while being a “test case.”

There are no known cases of media organizations actually losing credentials for providing live-blogging coverage, but the closer the coverage gets to a literal play-by-play description of events in real time, the more likely it is to draw a reaction. If threatened with the loss of credentials, journalists on the scene would probably be best advised to:

  • Immediately involve a sports editor or editor-in-chief.
  • Avoid a potentially heated on-the-spot argument that distracts from covering the event.
  • Go along with the sports organization’s requests—thereby defusing the confrontation—by agreeing to post fewer blog updates or changing their vantage points on the sidelines.
  • Carefully document which official made what threats; this documentation would be important for any legal challenges that could arise.

Student journalists have a particularly strong argument for leeway, since they, just like the student athletes they are covering, are in college to receive training and prepare for careers. A college that uses its authority to de-credential and expel student journalists is both harming the college audience and harming the career preparation of the students it hopes to place in professional employment.

Journalists who have issues with access to sporting events – including restrictions on what they can post online when covering sports – are encouraged to report concerns to the Student Press Law Center at [email protected] or 703-807-1904. The SPLC is building a database of sports access issues in collaborating with the ASNE and other professional media organizations, to assist in identifying the restrictions that trouble journalists most frequently and that are most in need of reform, whether by regulators or by the courts.