The State Hornet has won its fight to remain in the heart of the Sacramento State campus.
The State Hornet was one of several campus organizations that were forced to leave the University Union by the middle of January as part of an 18-to-24 month renovation project. Initially, the newspaper was asked to move to Folsom Hall, a 1.1-mile trip over U.S. Highway 50 and to the outskirts of campus. It was the only organization asked to make such a move.
Its newsroom will now be next to Mendocino Hall, which houses Sac State’s Department of Communication Studies and its journalism courses.
“This is, I think, a victory for The State Hornet,” said editor-in-chief Joel Boland. “It’s going to be great for us to have this space so close to the journalism building. To be central on campus is going to make it so much better to do our jobs as opposed to having no newsroom or a newsroom that’s a mile from campus.”
The State Hornet learned of its impending move to Folsom Hall early in the fall semester. It went public with news in an editorial published Nov. 15.
In that editorial, the newspaper outlined its reasons for opposing the move.
“In moving The State Hornet off campus, reporters will be limited in being able to respond to and report on breaking news. The 30-40 minute round trip alone will result in newsworthy situations being over by the time a reporter gets there, or the matter being ‘resolved’ by police without any eyewitness being available to us.”
Boland and faculty adviser Stu VanAirsdale both said The State Hornet would not move to Folsom Hall. The two led the way in seeking an alternative solution, an appeals process that went through the Department of Communication Studies, the College of Arts & Letters, and the Sac State’s president’s office.
“We definitely got the space because we fought hard to arrange an alternative, to find an alternative like (Del Norte Hall),” VanAirsdale said. “We enlisted support from a lot of folks on campus to help us find that space and they came through for us at the last minute. It’s not like we forced everyone’s hand. We were able to successfully build a campaign they were able to get behind. It’s hard to argue that (The State Hornet) should be anywhere but right here.”
According to Tuesday’s editorial, written by Boland, other possible locations included a temporary office trailer, a storage space located in a parking garage and an unused racquetball court.
Boland thanked many people for helping make the move possible, including Sac State president Robert Nelsen and his chief of Staff Lisa Cardoza.
“I’m very grateful,” he said. “I said it in the editorial, and I was very specific with my wording on this. I said I’m so grateful for the creativity and the hard work by the University … I think there was a lot of hard work to find us this space.”
There will be another move in the newspaper’s future, as it is scheduled to return to the University Union once the renovations are complete.
“We are really happy to have resolved this,” VanAirsdale said.
“I don’t know if it’s gratifying. It’s a little bittersweet. While we do have our home set for the foreseeable future, we will have to move again by all indications. I would love to be settled in one place.”
The volume of work and number of years that Dan dedicated to college media will occasionally give us the opportunity to look back. At the top headlines. At the big stories. At what Dan himself was writing about years ago.
Here’s such an example:
During this week in 2010, Dan posted, “Ten Student Newspapers Sporting the Most Facebook Fans.” The headline was self-explanatory, with The Daily Tar Heel leading the way with 5,984 fans.
As I was looking at the post Monday, I asked myself, “What would this list look like today?” So, I set to find out, with a couple of key changes. The Facebook “fan” has given way to the Facebook “like.” And let’s include online-only student media outlets.
So, with a new working headline, here are the “Ten Student Media Organizations Sporting the Most Facebook Likes.” You’ll notice there’s a new No. 1.
(Disclaimer: The Facebook likes are good as of Tuesday afternoon. For entertainment purposes only. Did I miss someone? Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
10.) Daily Bruin, University of California, Los Angeles, 17,548 likes
9.) The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan, 20,857 likes
8.) The Crimson White, University of Alabama, 21,789 likes
7.) Central Michigan Life, Central Michigan University, 24,810 likes
6.) Iowa State Daily, Iowa State University, 25,035 likes
5.) The Daily Collegian, Penn State University, 25,920 likes
4.) The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina, 33,453 likes
3.) The Daily Californian, University of California, Berkeley, 34,530 likes
2.) The Harvard Crimson, Harvard University, 70,804 likes
1.) Onward State, Penn State University, 96,706 likes
David Simpson is the director of student media at Georgia Southern University.
Let’s start with my conclusions, because as will become obvious I am not depending on you to read this whole post. Here’s what I conclude about readership of our student newspaper:
- Our readers are scanning. Period.
- They are not looking for articles to read.
- They expect to learn enough simply by scanning.
- They are not in the market to read for any length of time.
- Their thought process is NOT this: “The headline, the photo and the pullout quote are interesting, so the article will be interesting.”
- Their process IS this: “I read the headline and (maybe) the pullout quote. Got it.”
- In short, they consume print the same way they consume social media on their phones.
And yet I remain determined to publish our student newspaper twice a week. Some of you will conclude that I am way off base about either the conclusions or the continuing value of print, so this may be the point where you say, “Got it,” and swipe. Farewell.
Still here? OK, let’s start with what brings me to “college students consume print like a phone.”
My colleague Samantha Reid and I taught a “Campus Journalism” first-year experience class in fall 2016. The 30 meetings of the class coincided with the 30 publication dates of our student newspaper, The George-Anne. The 23 (later 22) students had to bring in that morning’s edition and spend the first five minutes of class circling every headline, pull quote and paragraph that they read.
(This “circle what you read” survey is suggested by design guru Tim Harrower. And I’m indebted to our graduate assistant Chris Nwankwo for tallying up the circles into one master copy of each edition.)
We’ve done this survey sporadically in past years, often by taking one edition to a journalism class. The results from our first-year students are in line with those earlier surveys. But if you want to consider how much faith to put into our sample, here are details about our class.
- They’re first-year students, brand new to our campus.
- All but one of them voluntarily chose to be in a
“campus journalism” class. (They must take an FYE class, but they have
dozens and dozens of options.)
- They always had at least five minutes in class to flip
through the paper and circle stuff. (They generally needed less than five
Early in the semester, we might get 14 out of 20-23 students circling a particular headline, which is much higher than anything we had seen with upperclassmen. But after a few weeks, it settled down to a level I’ve seen before. And, also as I’ve seen before, most text articles had zero paragraphs circled. That’s right, not even the lead.
There were exceptions. For example, a major story about problems with campus safety alerts got some readers. But after turning page after page and looking for those circles, the pattern was clear:
- Readers scan headlines and some photos.
- If they are interested by the headline or photo, they will scan further to subheads or text boxes.
- And MAYBE they will read under a subhead.
It’s important to note they do NOT necessarily read beneath the first subhead. They are very comfortable browsing information without regard to the article narrative.
For example, we had a two-page spread recently about an alum who played women’s basketball here and now has transitioned to identify as male. Six students circled the headline. None circled any other text on the first page. But three circled several paragraphs of text under a subhead on the second page.
So I propose that when our readers turn to a page in print, it’s as if they’ve opened their social media app on their phone. What is visible on THIS SCREEN that is interesting? If nothing, then they’re scrolling away.
When a headline is worth reading, readers are in effect stopping their scroll. Now what other information about this topic is being presented on THIS SCREEN? Maybe they’re willing to scroll a little to see another photo and/or read some brief featured text in a box.
But what if there’s a link on the screen to take them to The New York Times or thegeorgeanne.com? What would induce them to CLICK ON THE LINK? It takes a lot. And I think that’s the analogy to a decision to start actually reading an “article” in print. How high is that bar? I would say (half joking), this high:
(Source unknown. Reverse image search unhelpful.)
Consider a George-Anne story headlined, “Stun guns and tasers allowed on Georgia college campuses.” The headline got 15 circles, which is very high. And a pullout quote at the bottom of the page got seven, which is still very good. And the actual article got zero. Not even the lead got one circle. So people were interested in the topic, but it was just too high a bar for them to trust that it would be worthwhile to read the article. (Bees, I tell you!)
Ditto this story, “Multiple reports of car break-ins in Statesboro.” The headline and pullquote each got nine circles. The story got zero circles.
On many other stories, I could see people browsing just about everything EXCEPT the article. We had a major criminal verdict in a student death. The opinion editor interviewed four students for reaction, presented their views in individual boxes with their photos, and began with a brief text article explaining the background and methodology. Seven of our sample class members circled the headline, and the four pullouts with individual students got 6-7 views each. The writer’s intro got three circles – good compared to other articles, but it probably would have done better if it had been formatted as bullet points instead of an article.
When I’ve seen text getting no circles in the past, my takeaway has been that we needed to do better at getting good photos and graphics and points of entry for stories. And those things still are true. But seeing no paragraphs of text circled even when many people circled the accompanying headlines, subheads and pullquotes leads me to believe that the bar is very, very high to get people to read something that looks like a straight article.
My intent here is not to say we should never write an article. It is to say that when we want people to read something of any length, we’re going to have to work a lot harder to get people to “click” on it and then to stay with it. I think that means clever treatment of type and an understanding of browsing behavior throughout the design. Yes, user experience.
This is by no means a new idea, but I think we need many more short pieces, organized well, in place of what are now “medium” articles. And then let’s devote serious time and attention to the few pieces that really deserve to be read at length.
By the way, we know this is the format millennials prefer. Nielsen tells us that millennials aren’t reading print newspapers, but they read print magazines at higher rates than Baby Boomers. Cosmo, Vogue and Rolling Stone are attracting millennial print readers. Pick up a copy. Does that magazine look like your student newspaper?
So this is where many student journalists will say, “This guy wants us to dumb down our newspaper.”
I submit Popular Science, circulation 1.2 million. I think it’s safe to say its readers are above average education and are pretty interested in the subject matter. (Most of them pay for it.) Certainly Popular Science readers would seem more likely to read whatever is offered than our average student newspaper reader. So Popular Science writers can just write an article, right?
The issue of Popular Science I scanned last week had exactly ONE conventional article. That was the cover story, which was LONG. Its first few pages were heavily designed, then the editors just draped the jump all over the back of the book. (I’m guessing they think almost nobody reads that far.)
Everything else was quick and to the point. Either the text guided the reader through an infographic, or it was a fairly short burst with a compelling photo, or the “article” was broken up in distinct, independently scannable pieces. For example:
I mentioned I’m still in favor our twice-a-week print schedule. The newspaper still makes a profit (advertising revenue less marginal cost of publishing), and I believe it reaches many students who would never consciously consume “campus news” via any other medium.
But I’m not here to tell you how all this should translate to your publication schedule, your audience and your staff. I’m here to challenge your assumptions about what your audience is reading and why it’s not reading more. And if you’ve read this long, I will show my gratitude by stopping.
Editor’s note: For many in college media, the end of the fall semester represents a break from the classroom and the newsroom. But for at least one editor in chief, December meant graduation and handing over the reins.
Kavahn Mansouri is the outgoing editor in chief of The Journal at Webster University in suburban St. Louis. During his time in college media, he has been the EIC of two newspapers, also leading the way for The Montage at St. Louis Community College – Meramec. He recently looked back on his time spent as a student journalist.
The curtain has closed.
I went to the hastily thrown together December graduation ceremony, I passed the editor in chief reins to my managing editor and put my last issue of The Journal to bed. After six and a half years (sigh) my time as a student journalist has come to a close.
It has been, by far, the best era of my life.
Work worth doing. I’ve always thought that journalism, and specifically student journalism, is just that. Something we can all get behind. Something that makes for the best and strangest teams. Something that takes the data miners, sports jocks, theatre kids, bookworms, nerds, perfect students, awful students (ahem), video gamers, illustrators, hipsters and whatever other cliche you can imagine, and throws them into a small room with a dozen some odd computers and demands they “get to work.”
That is what student journalism is to me. Doing work worth doing with a band of ragtag misfits in a small room, putting out something we could be proud of. It, to me, was also the only reason I stumbled through college and something that any inquisitive mind should experience.
I’ve never been good at anything but being a reporter. Sometimes, I even struggle with that. But I think, even in the smallest of newsrooms, you would be hard pressed to spend six and a half years working at a craft and not come out at least somewhat skilled at your profession.
And yes, I am aware that six and a half years is a long time to be in college. But I did it, and I spent that entire time being a student journalist and working in two newsrooms. It made this long run at college the best years of my life.
In those newsrooms I reported crazier stories than I thought I could, fell in love (twice), mourned, celebrated victories and learned in defeat, grew, took steps back, quit, made a comeback, mentored, made best friends, beat the competition and lost to the competition, had the best times of my life and the worst times of my life and became a better person from all of it. That is just a short list. I couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, go on. But I guess what I’m getting at is that being in a newsroom made college not just good, but great. It also helped me understand why we do this.
We’re at this strange point in American history. We’ve all heard the same back-and-forth about how this is the press’ time to reclaim the Fourth Estate and rise up. I won’t repeat that because I know you read. You’re here, aren’t you? But as I step out of this newsroom for one of the last times and start thinking about what’s next for me, I’ll think of Ed Bishop, our sharp tongued critiquer who tragically died this year. His words are still ringing in my ears. “Journalism is a calling, not a career.” I hope I never forget that.
I hope I never forget this is a civic duty, or that we should all aspire to be great, not just good, or that the best stories are the ones you don’t see right away, or to “cover the sh*t out of it,” and to know when to drown my darlings (kill your best stuff). I’ve had some of the best times of my life in this newsroom, and a few of the worst. But there isn’t a second that I spent working as a student journalist that wasn’t work worth doing.
We’re different. We’re not just students, we’re student journalists. We feel this calling and we have a duty. We report the news to the best of our effort and we get little thanks for the hard work we do. I’ll truly miss knowing more about Webster University finances than any undergraduate student on campus, and I’ll somehow miss putting a paper out at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and then dragging myself (or at least attempting ) to an 8 a.m. class a few hours later.
So, let it be stated for the record that the best college experience is spending as many evenings as you can in a small newsroom, eating fast food, drinking coffee, writing copy and laying out pages.
Complaining about editors and writers? You can fit that anywhere in between.
P.S. And to Larry: There is no better mentor, friend or carrot and stick master than you. I am a better journalist and person because of the mentor you were for me. Never stop challenging the future Kavahns.
With the college football bowl season set to kick off Saturday, the big story is whether the University of Minnesota will take the field against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego.
The football team announced Thursday that it would boycott all activities and practices after 10 players were suspended earlier this week over an alleged sexual assault back in September.
The Minnesota Daily, the student-led media, has been covering the developing story.
Assistant sports editor Mike Hendrickson wrote the initial story about the suspensions, published a detailed timeline of events leading up to this week and has been providing updates via social media.
Follow the Minnesota Daily on Twitter as this story develops.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Justin Mattingly, the editor in chief of The Daily Orange, the independent student newspaper at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. This is the second in a series showcasing student publications and how they’ve covered one of the most unique elections in United States history.
A week before Election Day, our presentation director, Clare Ramirez, called us into the visuals room in The Daily Orange house.
“Well, here they are,” said Ramirez, scrolling through about a dozen options for post-election front pages.
We went through the options, critiquing each one before selecting a layout everyone was happy with. We knew we had just chosen the most iconic front page of our time at the paper. Over the next week and beyond, The D.O. has covered what is considered one of the wildest elections in U.S. history.
Like many college newspapers, we followed the circus of an election from the time Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) became the first person to announce his candidacy. We paid special attention, however, to Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to run or not run in the wake of Beau Biden’s death. We had internal discussions about how we’d cover him and had some plans in place.
All the Biden planning was negated in October 2015 when he announced in the Rose Garden of the White House that he wouldn’t be seeking the Oval Office.
Over the next few months, we covered the candidates as they came to Syracuse, an anomaly for most elections. Our election coverage and planning really revved up over the summer and into the fall. We understood that readers are not coming to The Daily Orange for their major political news. Because of that, we took the approach of informing the electorate in clear ways to help them at both the national and local levels.
Headed by news editor and junior Sara Swann, much of the planning was done by our News staff, which brainstormed ideas and thought of different ways to cover the leadup to the election.
“We knew well beforehand it would be crazy, but I think on Nov. 8 we had a solid plan of attack,” Swann said. “We had pre-writes for all of the announcements so those could be updated and posted as soon as possible. We had had the front page design laid out for weeks. And everyone was assigned specific tasks.”
One of our most successful ideas was a series called “Candidates on the Issues,” a graphical breakdown of the presidential, Senate and Congressional candidates on key areas of policy. The series ran every Tuesday and Thursday and was praised in the community for giving clear-cut stances all in one place.
Heading into election week, all election-relevant staff members had a clear understanding of their role in our coverage and what was expected of them. It was go time.
The night itself
With our plans in place, things went smoothly throughout the day. Reporters and photographers were across campus and around the city. At “headquarters,” staffers came in earlier than our normal 4 p.m. production start time. It wasn’t a normal night.
Over the next 12 hours, we focused our coverage online with our web team, coordinating graphics and a live blog while the news staff and designers collaborated on the print product.
Like many across the country, we realized that Trump was going to be the likely winner. Thankfully, we had not only the front pages for both candidates, but stories, columns and an editorial board calling on the community to respect the results of the election.
The D.O. is a very collaborative environment and staff members realize that no matter their position on the masthead, at the end of the day they work for the paper rather than a specific section. And that night each staff member embraced our mission of covering the election to the fullest extent possible.
So at 2 a.m. — an hour and a half past our normal deadline, which had been extended — it was great to see an assistant sports editor doing a second read on a news coverage story and a sports copy editor going over the main A1 story on Trump’s win. Our sports editor sprinted to the Quad after rumors of a possible student protest after covering an SU men’s basketball game just a few hours before.
“Everyone just kind of bought in,” said Michael Burke, an assistant news editor and junior who wrote the main story.
We saw different front pages from across the country, some with the final result and others without. In Syracuse, the local metro newspaper, The Post-Standard, ran with a “Too Close To Call” headline. For us, we waited until the Associated Press officially called it. The paper was sent a few minutes after 3:30 a.m. with the “Trump Wins” headline.
“When we sent the paper, it was just an incredible feeling. The fact that we had that,” Burke said.
The results of Nov. 8 set off a major response on campus. Protests and candlelight vigils were held in the days and weeks following the election. Professors turned classes into an open forum for discussion. Uncertainty over undocumented students prompted a thousand-person walkout.
The D.O. is committed to seeing the story through. Our news staff sat down to budget post-election stories about how a Trump presidency will affect university policy and the SU community. We determined soon after the Nov. 9 paper that January’s inauguration is going to be historical, of course, but extremely controversial on campus.
We’ll be sending a team of reporters and photographers to Washington and New York City to cover the inauguration and will have a special edition paper the day after. Our feature section has stories centered on the election budgeted for the first week of papers back from our winter break. No matter the section, election coverage carries on.
The newsroom started to thin out around 4 a.m. on Election Night. A group of about five of us stuck around. We dropped people off at their apartments and dorms, but found our way back to the paper.
Into the morning, the paper arrived at about 7:15 a.m. On campus that day, students, faculty and Syracuse residents picked up their copies of the historic paper.
Come Jan. 21, The D.O. will have another historic paper on newsstands. The D.O. isn’t shying away from this election.
Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series that will be spotlight college media advisers and the unique things they are doing. David Swartzlander is a past president of College Media Association.
What started as a last-minute idea has become a once-every-four-years tradition for David Swartzlander. Next month, for the fifth time, he will travel with a group of student reporters from Doane University in Crete, Nebraska, to cover the presidential inauguration in Washington.
Over the years, Doane students have seen two George W. Bush and two Barack Obama inaugurations and, on Jan. 20, six will be in attendance with Swartzlander when Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
This year’s trip will be 10 days and will include the usual tourist stops along with a planned visit to the Washington Post and possible visits with CNN, the CBS Washington Bureau, NPR and the Nebraska legislative delegation. The students will provide coverage for Doaneline.com and Nebraska publications.
The trip is open to any student who registers. They pay their own expenses and receive academic credit.
“Most of the students on the trip are journalism majors so they’ve at least had basic news writing and reporting,” said Swartzlander, the long-time adviser to student media at Doane, which includes The Doane Owl, 1014 Magazine and Doaneline.
“For those who haven’t, it’s no problem. The students and I will help teach them. It’s not as if we have immediate access to the president-elect or even the Nebraska delegation. If we have an interview with a senator, we’ll talk about questions we want to ask or themes on which we want to focus, but that’s it. They get thrown into the ocean to see whether they can swim. We always give them a flotation device and a lifeline, though. It works well.”
The trip’s origins go back to 2000, a time when Doane required a 3-week interterm in January for its students. An interterm is the time between semesters, or quarters, when on-campus and travel courses are offered in more-intense formats.
Swartzlander was assigned to teach his first interterm at Doane and running short on time and ideas.
“It was pure desperation,” he said. “One night, while tossing and turning, trying to figure out what do, it hit me. The inauguration was coming up on Jan. 20. I could take students to D.C. for two weeks and cover the events leading up.”
Though an interterm is no longer a requirement for Doane students, the trip has remained an option. Swartzlander said this year’s group is the smallest of his five. He credits that to the loss of the requirement and the cold weather destination, and not political affiliations.
Planning for each trip starts in the spring. Swartzlander said his university’s alumni network is his biggest resource.
“We have alums who work for representatives and senators who help us get access,” he said. “One of our alums is the press secretary for the U.S. Senate. He works closely with the Judiciary Committee. We have two alums who are Secret Service officers and they have helped us get tours there in the past. … We have alum in the U.S. State Department.
“If someone is going to attempt this trip, I strongly urge them to get a list of D.C. alums from the university and use those people to help get access and to provide info to students.”
As is to be expected, these D.C. trips have come with some memorable personal stories. In his own words, here are some Swartzlander’s favorites.
- “A first-year student didn’t want to go to one of the events we had planned. She instead wanted to attend the National Zoo where zookeepers were going to unveil the baby pandas born weeks before. We had a large group, so another professor went on the trip that year. He took all the students but this first-year student to the planned event. I took her to the National Zoo. She stood with reporters from the Washington Post, AP, CNN, etc. and covered those pandas. And her story hit page 1 of the Lincoln Journal Star.”
And another …
- “(Two students) got into trouble at the Pentagon. They decided to shoot a reporter’s stand-up while going up the escalator from the Metro to the Pentagon. When they got to the top, two Pentagon Security officers had guns drawn, pointed at them. You’re not allowed to shoot video at the Pentagon. They both were scared to death, though the guards didn’t do anything.”
And another …
- “One of my students, who is blind, came on the trip. He so much wanted to be a journalist but realized that he would be unable to get to the scene of news quickly if he was blind. He was an excellent reporter and writer, but he feared his disability would keep him from any form of mass communication, until he took the trip to Washington, D.C. He then realized with the Metro, he could get anywhere he needed to go. He was hooked. He nabbed an internship at the White House, (and) then was hired by a Nebraska senator to be a press aide. He’s now the press secretary for the U.S. Senate.”
Trip No. 5 with the Doane students will be the last for Swartzlander, who will retire from teaching before 2020.
For him, each of the trips has meant a front-row seat to history.
“I never tire of the wonder in my students eyes when they gaze at the Lincoln Memorial or sit on the set of ‘Face the Nation,’ ” he said. “Or I know the trip is worth it as I see them stroll through the Holocaust Museum, tears trickling down their cheeks. Most importantly, perhaps, they learn that they need to question authority, that those differing opinions that seem to make a mess of the national conversation are actually what make democracy work”
While their counterpoints at other schools were juggling finals and preparing for winter break, the student journalists at Texas A&M’s The Battalion were covering the controversy and protests surrounding a speech given by white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Editor in Chief Sam King explains how her staff planned for coverage that went national, made tough decisions under pressure and managed to still passed their finals. We hope.
The Battalion broke the story that Richard Spencer would be speaking on campus because of an advertising request. What played into your decision to not run the ad?
If our advertising office thinks an ad is questionable, it is sent to me for approval, where I’ll do some research into the company asking for advertisement. If we think that they go against our values, aka promote racist or otherwise hateful ideals, we’ll turn it down. After doing my research on Spencer and Wiginton, the decision was pretty straightforward. We didn’t feel comfortable being funded by an organization or people who hold values so hateful.
Can you explain how you planned for the extensive coverage you provided?
After seeing the attention the initial story gained, we knew from there on out people beyond our normal readership would be looking to us to continue reporting on this story, and to continue to do so well. From there it became a matter of discussing with the staff what we thought would a.) best serve our readership and b.) continue the conversation. The initial story broke a couple days before Thanksgiving, so when we got back to our regular production we questioned ourselves everyday, “What story can we tell about this? Which perspective can we tell?”
We were reached out to by different people telling us they had a story to tell, or a side to share. And then on top of that, the whole staff was really energized by the enormity of the story that they really found the stories that needed to be told pretty easily.
[We began planning] almost immediately after we broke the story. [We] isolated the areas we knew we’d needed to cover: Spencer’s talk, the protests and the Aggies United counter event hosted by the university. Then we asked our talented desk editing team to put forward writers and photographers they thought would be up to the task. We told them to prepare their staff for a long night Tuesday.
The Thursday before the events, we had a meeting that included [everyone involved in coverage] so we could discuss the details of what we wanted done. There, we assigned each staff member one of the three “teams.” We put at least two reporters, two photographers and one videographer on each team, with extra resources being put toward the protest team because we knew those would be the most widespread. We put in our press clearance requests for the Aggies United and were cleared for all five people. [We] only got two spots for the speech, so we relocated the other three people to handle the line outside the speech and to stand outside the room of the speech in case anyone was escorted from the room or if the protests moved outside the room, which they did.
We instructed everyone to arrive at 3:30 p.m. (3.5 hours before the actual speech began) on Tuesday so we could go over things again. We told them to prepare for a long day, to dress in business casual and to be ready for anything. “Adaptability” was the word we preached most regarding our coverage.
We also decided to have a team stay in our office to be running the main account’s Twitter, to be fielding calls, relocating people as necessary, transcribing interviews as they came in and to act as a home base for everything. This is where myself, my managing editor and a few other editors spent Tuesday night, and we were just as busy, although more stationary, than the reporters out in the field.
Why did you think it was so important?
We felt that because it was affecting so many people, because so many people had so many strong emotions and opinions about it, we owed it to our readership to cover every aspect possible to the fullest extent.
However, there was one move we made that was actually a decision not to include any coverage of Spencer in our print edition on Tuesday, and it was a move I think I’m most proud of and that goes for a lot of our staff, too.
The Tuesday of the event was our last print paper for the week because we have an abbreviated print schedule during finals week. The first Tuesday of the month is also the day our school holds Silver Taps, a solemn ceremony held at 10:30 p.m. in honor of students who have passed away in the month before. During the ceremony thousands of students stand in Academic Plaza in total silence while a gun salute is given and a special rendition of “Taps” is played. The lights on campus are dimmed and everyone gathers and [honors] the student(s) we’ve lost.
The same Tuesday in The Battalion we run an obituary piece on the student(s). This Tuesday happened to be the same one Richard Spencer would be on campus. So my staff decided that while it would have made sense to do all our advance content on his visit in that paper, we decided that there would be absolutely no mention of Spencer. Instead the paper was dedicated to the student who had died.
The staff also made the decision later that night to pause our [Spencer] coverage online/on social media during Silver Taps so we could all attend, before resuming it later.
What do you wish you’d done differently, if anything?
This is a hard question to answer because I’m so proud of everything my staff did. I think really the only call we made that I wish we’d made sooner was to disable the comments on the YouTube livestream. We left them on for 24 hours and that allowed thousands of “alt-right” supporters to just be awful and hateful in the comment section. Our livestream was shared by an “alt-right” website, bringing thousands of people to our site. We turned off comments during the livestream itself, but I wish we’d turned them off the video earlier, too.
But otherwise, I’m really pleased with how everything turned out. I think we all learned a lot, even from our mistakes, making those mistakes worth making in the first place.
What advice would you give other student media who might encounter a story of similar scope?
PLAN! I can’t stress enough how much the planning we did paid off Tuesday night. There’s no way you’re going to be able to predict everything that’s going to happen in a situation, so be ready to be adaptable.
For me, too, the discussion and debate we had with our staff was invaluable. We got a lot of criticism from a lot of different parties about the various aspects of our coverage, but because I knew that my staff supported the decisions we’d made, it was a lot easier to field those emails and messages.
But planning, staying calm and having a good team I could rely on really helped.
How hard was it to decide to broadcast Spencer’s talk live?
It was very hard, and it was a decision I was originally against. None of us supported his message, and we were fully aware that giving him the attention and coverage was something he wanted. But we also knew there were people who wanted to hear exactly how hateful this guy is. They wanted to know, uncensored and unfiltered, what was being said. There were people who wanted to attend so they could question him on what he was saying, but they didn’t feel comfortable because of the people who would have potentially been in that room.
We did let Spencer reach his supporters by streaming it. But we also opened Spencer up, unedited, unfiltered and honestly, to people who will criticize and question him. We said it in the letter from the editor we published at the end of Tuesday, but I think it sums it up best: “We felt the only way to combat hatred was to give it a name.” In deciding to stream him live and in his entirety, we were removing the even slight possibility that what people were getting from others was a slanted, made-to-look-extra-hateful version of himself. They got the honest, hateful version of Spencer with our coverage, and I know many appreciated it.
How did you handle it when the police threatened to not allow you back into your own space?
Honestly that one goes to our adviser, Doug Pils, who was an invaluable asset to us during our planning and handling of this coverage. As students, when you’re being told by someone in a uniform that you can’t get back into your office, it’s intimidating and difficult to stand up to them and say, “No, I can. I’m with the press and this is my office.” Doug really helped us navigate that, whether it was telling the officers themselves, talking with university officials to clear things up or letting students in the back door after it was locked. His help Tuesday night was a big deal to everyone on staff and I know we all appreciated it.
A video produced by a Battalion staffer was used by ABC News and so far has almost 750,000 views. How has your staff dealt with the spotlight being on you?
Being a student paper, our end goal is really to help teach our staff the skills they’ll need to be successful out in “the real world,” and help set them up for a career in journalism when they graduate. So we told them, “If a reporter or a news site is asking to use your content, that’s totally fine, just make sure that they credit you and The Battalion.” For the most part, everyone has. And that’s really exciting for everyone. Our readership, our audience, went from the 60,000 people who go to school at A&M to the country on Tuesday night, which was incredible.
There’s certainly some stress that goes along with that, too. I mean, we’re 20 year olds with, at most, four years of journalism experience behind us reporting on the same story that CNN is out there doing. But I really think we held our own and the fact that we were picked up by ABC, NBC, CW, BuzzFeed and more just proves that to me. Our staff has handled it with grace and maturity that far exceeded my expectations, and I couldn’t be prouder.
How do you think you did on your final projects and exams while dealing with all this attention?
Ha! My mom likes to emphasize the “student” in student journalist whenever test time comes around. Yes, it was definitely difficult balancing breaking national and even international news with my rhetoric final. Did I study as much as I probably should have? No, probably not but it still looks like I’ll be graduating in May In fact, fun story: As I was taking my rhetoric final, the last question was an excerpt from the editorial I wrote, asking us to decide which rhetorical device it utilized. Now, I don’t know if I got it right or not, but it was cool that I actually wrote one of my exam questions. Just proved to me that what we did was important and the school was paying attention.
Not only is Emily Bloch one of the few students who regularly presents sessions on a national stage, she hosts some of the most popular events at state, regional and national conventions. From Zombie Stories to Midnight Snack to the First Amendment Free Food Festival, the events this soon-to-be college graduate coordinates are some of the most innovative and popular programs for student attendees (and often advisers, too).
But that’s just the start of the big resume that comes with this tiny package. Emily has served as the editor in chief of the Florida Atlantic University newspaper, the University Press. Before she had even settled into the role, she battled Fred Hamilton of The Boca Raton Tribune after discovering he’d plagiarized numerous paragraphs from her story on an alleged gang rape. She won that battle.
While still in college she has developed freelancing gigs for herself, tried some strange things and won some even stranger awards. She currently serves as the student affairs committee chair for the SPJ Florida Professional Chapter and is president of her school’s chapter. Somehow with all those responsibilities, she still found some time to answer our questions.
When you discovered Fred Hamilton had plagiarized you, how did you decide to attack the situation? What steps did you take and what support did you have?
My managing editor was the first one to notice the article and its similarities. He sent it my way and I knew right away that it was a cut and paste job. The first thing I did was highlight all of the paragraphs that came from my story — there were multiple. I had amazing support from my staff and our advisers (we have three). From there, we devised a game plan where I’d attempt to make contact first. It didn’t work out. My adviser even tried stepping in. That only made it worse. It was so frustrating to see a working reporter (almost) get away with something I’d get expelled for. Ultimately, what turned things around was when other local news outlets caught wind of the story. When they started giving it attention and asking the publisher for interviews, that’s when he did a complete about face. They ended up praising me for my skill and ethics and suspending the reporter. It was my within my first week as editor, by the way. I don’t think my title had even changed yet under my byline.
How did you get involved in SPJ and why did you think it was important to do that?
I got involved with SPJ because of the outreach the Florida pro chapter did with student media. My school didn’t even have an SPJ chapter until fairly recently. SPJ Florida encouraged students to get involved with wacky programming like the Death Race — an obituary writing contest at a very elaborate fake funeral. I won a ‘students only’ edition where we eulogized a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer. The massive urn I received as a trophy still sits on my bedroom dresser — it’s always a fun conversation starter. The events SPJ was endorsing were so fun and also educational, (still haven’t seen obituary writing in my curriculum and I graduate in a week) I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. In hindsight, I’m so glad I did get involved and I think it’s so important — whether you have a student chapter or not — because it’s an instant boat full of people who are either where you want to be in five years or headed there with you. These are people who will help you accomplish things.
You are one of only a few students who present at conventions, why do you think it’s important for you to teach your peers?
I think students need to know that there’s not going to be a red carpet and velvet rope inviting them to do things out of the classroom. They have to want it and take it on. I learned so much outside of lecture halls, through SPJ programming and I really try to convey that when I talk to other students. Every program or event I host at college media conventions is one that a student could take home and do on their campus. And I want to help them make it happen. As far as solo sessions go, you don’t have to have a degree to be working in the field. I really just try and share shortcuts I’ve learned along the way so other students can get that much further without any hiccups.
You run some pretty big programs at national conventions, what challenges do you face as a student programmer?
At first, getting taken seriously was something that I thought would be an issue. As a fairly young female who gets carded everywhere I go, I figured there was going to be some ‘mansplaining’ or even just aegism that was unavoidable. It might have happened subtly the first time around (I may have had to bite my lip a couple of times), but I ignored it. I did what I wanted to do and knew people were watching. Now, I’m able to let my track record speak for itself.
You have written for numerous publications during your time in college. How did you seek those opportunities and what advice would you give to other students for pursuing journalism outside of the campus media?
Working for my college newspaper was the best experience I could have ever asked for. I walked into the newsroom before I even signed up for a class and I frankly just never left. I took on beats as I started out — first vaguely, with features. Then more specifically, with music. I built my University Press clips up and strove to be the campus concert aficionado. From there, the features editor at New Times (the Village Voice’s South Florida sister publication) took a chance on me. I started covering concerts that were too far from campus to make the school paper for New Times. It really just blossomed from there. The most valuable advice I could ever give a student for pursuing journalism outside of campus media is that one doesn’t happen easily without the other. Become an expert at something within and branch out from there.
With your graduation coming up, what’s the one thing you wish you’d done in college that you haven’t?
Honestly, I just wish I tried even weirder stuff than what I put out there. I tried my hand at infographics, covered stories for multiple sections, heck, I even did a listicle on the Eight Things We Learned Watching the RNC Condiment Table with a news editor at another university (we ran it on both newspapers’ websites). But the beauty of student media is there’s no limit. You can try the craziest stuff that your next job very likely won’t go for. I wish I had more time to do the crazy stuff now that I have the guts to do it.
What do you tell people who wonder why anyone would study or pursue a career in journalism nowadays?
If accountants are able to be accountants without having to explain their occupational choices, then so should I. I’m one of those writers who falls into the ‘please keep me away from math’ cliche. But realistically, when the bug bites you, it just does. As a high schooler, I was submitting horrible show reviews to a teenage-geared local music rag. It was awful, but at the time, I felt validated. That feeling never went away and as I took on more, the reward got bigger. Even though I was already set in my career choice, a turning point for me was when I covered an alleged gang rape off campus. My story proved that there were fraternity ties and months later, I got a letter from the victim’s lawyer saying she was pursuing a case. You by no means need a ‘glory moment’ to know you love what you do. But that letter helped me realize that this field truly does give voices to the voiceless. We tell stories that need to be told and that’s more important to me than a salary.
Dan Reimold, the founder of CMM, loved to ask people to write their memoirs in six words. What would yours be?
Try. Weird. Stuff. All. The. Time.
Do you have a nominee for College Media Geeks? Contact CollegeMediaMatters2@gmail.com.
The mayor of Fort Collins, Colorado, has made December “Student Media Celebration Month.”
Wade Troxell presented a proclamation earlier this week in honor of the 125th anniversary of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the independent student newspaper of Colorado State University, located in Fort Collins.
The proclamation read in part: “… The Rocky Mountain Collegian reflects the unique character of the … community in Fort Collins with meaningful distribution in the larger Fort Collins community and dedication to cover local issues and candidates … “
The proclamation was presented at a City Council meeting to Julia Rentsch, the Collegian’s editor-in-chief.
The Collegian was founded in 1891 by seven students at what was then Colorado Agricultural College. It first published in December of that year.
Story: “December declared Student Media Celebration Month with mayoral proclamation,” Collegian.com
It’s an awkward conversation, talking about the lasting legacy of a person who has not died yet. And it is a grim task, preparing for someone’s death. But all of that became reality this past week, when staff members of Elon University’s student news organization Elon News Network learned President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley died at 92.
In terms of coverage, preparations had been underway “for years,” said Executive Director of ENN, Tommy Hamzik. “Even before I was a student, generations of student media members have been preparing for this story, because of Danieley’s impact on campus.”
Dr. J. Earl Danieley spent more than 70 of his 92 years involved with Elon University in some way. He was a student, professor, dean, Elon’s sixth President and then named President Emeritus. Danieley saw a lot of change, and made a lot of changes to campus, including the current 4-1-4 academic schedule, building seven campus buildings and admitting Elon’s first black students. Current University President Leo Lambert was quoted as saying, “There will never be another Earl Danieley, but he has taught us that every member of the Elon community has the capability and responsibility to carry forward his good work.”
Danieley’s good work was chronicled by Elon News Network in a variety of ways. Both the broadcast and print student media organizations combined in August 2016 to work together under one roof, giving ENN staff members the unique ability to cover this story on multiple mediums and platforms.
Hamzik and his team of 75 student journalists were tipped off that Danieley’s health was deteriorating, so they put the years of planning into action.
Hamzik said the staff was planning their weekly Wednesday print edition as well as their weekly Thursday ELN Morning broadcast when news of Danieley’s death broke around 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Along with their regularly scheduled publications and broadcasts, the staff added a special 12-page memorial edition of The Pendulum newspaper to be on newsstands Thursday morning, less than 48 hours after the death of Danieley.
“As soon as we knew he had died, we made sure to adjust Wednesday’s edition of the paper to reorganize things, and obviously change the cover story.”
The cover photo for Wednesday’s paper is seen here, taken by staff photographer A.J. Mandell this fall at one of Danieley’s last appearances on-campus. The cover story was written by Hamzik himself, which he said was largely complete by the time news of Danieley’s death reached the newsroom.
For ELN Morning Executive Producer Audrey Engelman, the news of Danieley’s death meant the planned rundown of Thursday morning’s show, which often includes light news, cooking segments and musical performances, had to be “thrown out.”
“We were pretty short-staffed at the time, so we were not able to have people keep doing their original stories, and get Danieley memorial stories done,” Engelman said. “So everyone dropped what they were doing to pick up a memorial piece.”
The 30-minute live memorial show ended up having five pieces on Danieley’s life, legacy and impact on different members of the campus community. University President Leo Lambert and Social Media Manager for the University Adam Constantine, a close friend of Danieley, were in studio for live interviews.
“I can’t stress enough how important it was that everyone was willing and able to go with the flow. It really helped that week, and during the last-minute planning for the broadcast especially,” said Engelman.
Hamzik credits the cultivation of sources as part of ENN’s success with their coverage.
“It is so important in a small community like Elon to be connected across campus, and really know the people you are writing about and reporting on every day,” said Hamzik. “You are building trust with people personally, but your coverage helps your organization as a whole build trust.” Hamzik says his tip from a source the weekend before Danieley’s death helped him and the rest of the team understand that this was coming, and to prepare accordingly.
Many of the professors in Elon’s School of Communications have had real world journalism experience, covering local and national news stories as they occurred. Hamzik said learning from those who had been there helped his team successfully cover one of Elon’s saddest days.
To view the Thursday, December 1st special memorial edition of The Pendulum:
To watch the Thursday, December 1st special memorial edition of ELN Morning:
Editor’s note: Emily Barske is the editor in chief of the Iowa State Daily, the independent student newspaper at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. This is the first in a series showcasing student publications and how they’ve covered one of the most unique elections in United States history.
Our top editorial leaders left the newsroom at 3:30 a.m. on election night.
The 11-hour production consisted of multi-platform coverage of all elections from the local to national level affecting our coverage area. Staffers did everything from making one or two calls to get community leaders’ reactions, to taking photos at watch parties, to Snapchatting or live tweeting results as they came in and putting together all the pieces to create content.
Coverage of election night started much before coming in for our regular production that night and lasted much longer than 3:30 a.m.
Covering election night
The Daily’s news editor of politics and administration, Alex Connor, led the charge on our election coverage, planning it out weeks in advance — even creating a packet for staff called “The Ultimate Election Night Guide to Doing Election Night.” She assigned reporters, designers, the digital editor and the visuals editors to certain tasks more than a month before election night.
We had graphics prepared that helped us visually show maps and percentages important for readers to understand our coverage. We gathered up photos of candidates for all the races we were going to cover. We prepared two front pages and two editorials on the opinion page: one if Clinton won and one if Trump won.
The non-election pages were all done before 8 p.m. so there was some downtime as we waited for the results to start flooding in. At just before 1 a.m. a slight panic overtook the newsroom when it appeared that though Donald Trump was likely to win, the race would still be too close to call for our 1:30 a.m. print deadline. We started to brainstorm a centerpiece showing the “too close to call narrative.”
Luckily, we were able to get an extension from our printer for 3 a.m. and this allowed us time to continue following the race until it was called for Trump.
“I’m glad that we prepared two front pages, but I wish we would have prepared one in case no one won that night,” Connor said after the election.
The centerpiece story, for the most part, was written beforehand, but various reporters made calls to administrators and student leaders to get their immediate reaction to the election results to include in the story.
The reactions of those we interviewed were mixed. Some were overjoyed while others felt overwhelmed with fear because of a Trump presidency. In the weeks following the election, we have continued to try and capture our community’s reactions.
Covering the community after election night
While election night had come to a close, its effect on campus was just beginning.
Alex Hanson, the managing editor of content who also specializes in political coverage, said that after covering the election you have to look closer for stories to cover because there aren’t campaign events.
“The election is over, but there is still plenty going on,” Hanson said. “You have to continue to be plugged in and know what’s going on.”
In addition to staying plugged in, Connor assigned stories to make sure we reported on the varying reactions students had about the election even if they were out protesting or shouting for joy.
As a staff, we covered everything from post-election discussions, Not My President protests, students experiences of being called racial slurs on election night, a bill in the state legislature to stop state funding for post-election counseling and most recently the canceling of an arranged Milo Yiannopoulos event because of fees Iowa State administrators asked the event hosts to pay because of raised security concerns. And those were just the major stories.
It was also particularly important for the Daily to seek out a variety of voices and tell stories of people’s personal stake in this election cycle. Those who were unhappy with the election results were the most vocal, but they were not reflective of the entire campus. To counter this and diversify our coverage, we created content about Trump’s policy plans and spoke to student Trump supporters.
The election in many ways has been more emotional than past elections, thus making it extremely important for journalists to capture the wide array of feelings in the community. The Daily specifically emphasized live coverage of protests and discussions on social media, while also creating content through analysis stories and visual elements to capture all types of news consumers.
Overall experiences covering the elections
Staffers at the Daily all had different experiences covering this election, especially as journalists in Iowa. Hanson said he felt both of the two major candidates ran their campaigns differently than campaigns were run in past elections, which made covering the election different for journalists.
Connor and assistant visuals editor, Emily Blobaum, mentioned how unique getting to cover the experience was.
“It was a really great experience documenting history,” Blobaum said. “I can now say I’ve taken photos of the President [Elect] of the United States. From an editor’s standpoint, it pushed my creativity and thinking outside the box.”
Though the Daily staffers were afforded the opportunities such as what Connor and Blobaum mentioned, the fact that they were college journalists sometimes played a role.
“As a college paper, people don’t take you as seriously and you don’t have as much access,” Hanson said. “They don’t think we’re professional enough…they think no one reads us, which isn’t true.”
But though there can be setbacks, Hanson said college journalists should not shy away from covering elections.
“Don’t be afraid to try to do the same report just because you’re in college,” Hanson said. “You’re in a unique spot to cover things for students, while also doing the big stories that other organizations will do.”
Alissa Smith was only two weeks shy of graduating from the University of Central Florida when she learned the student newspaper she had worked for was shutting down.
The Central Florida Future printed its final edition Aug. 4. After 48 years, its owner Gannett shut down the publication. Smith, who had worked as a news editor and contributor for the Future, was impacted by the reaction to the closing by a younger staff member.
“She was so heartbroken that she said she was just going to change her major to English,” Smith said. “Because if people don’t believe (in journalism) in college, then what’s the real world going to be like?
“I was really upset. I wanted people to know that we still believe in student journalism.”
So, Smith spearheaded the launch of an independent, online-only student publication to cover the UCF campus and community. Four months after the Future closed, approximately three-quarters of its staff are now working for the Central Florida Focus.
Smith, who graduated from UCF with a business management and entrepreneurship degree, sought the help of a friend and fellow business graduate to get the Focus off the ground. Angela Minerva, who currently works full-time as an office manager in the Orlando area, became her co-Chief Operating Officer.
“I was just about as livid as Alissa when I heard about Gannett closing the Future,” Minerva said. “We both decided that it was unacceptable and that the community needed something it could rely on. This is my first endeavor into journalism. There’s a lot to learn. I’m trying to pick it up as quickly as I can.”
Together, the two – along with help from a GoFundMe account – provided the upfront costs, including buying the domain name centralfloridafocus.com and registering as a limited liability corporation.
Smith also spent the fall semester as the publication’s Editor-in-Chief, a role she will hand over next semester to the Focus’ current Managing Editor Samantha Bequer.
“When I first heard that the Future was no longer on campus, I felt stuck,” said Bequer, a junior majoring in journalism and political science. “What do I do now? How do I move on?
“When Alissa approached me with the idea (of the Focus), it felt like a sense of relief. We could still get our voice out there.”
“We had the choice to blend in with outlets that we didn’t really have a part of,” she said. “To be able to make our own way is really special.”
Life without a newsroom, and with a staff working in different locations, has “actually been pretty easy,” Smith said. Still, it’s come with some predictable challenges.
“We had scattered shifts, so not everyone was in the newsroom at the same time,” she said. “But you are missing the camaraderie. Before, if you needed someone to look over a story, you could just ask. Now, you text the group chat and hope someone has time to get back to you. That’s the hard part.”
Moving forward, the biggest goal for the Focus is sustainability, namely finding a way to pay its staff of editors and contributors. Currently, all are working for free.
“That’s our biggest struggle right now,” Minerva said. “We somehow have to make enough money to break even and pay people who are working for us.”
“We were hoping to be able to pay people,” Smith added. “We haven’t been able to find funds for that, which is upsetting.”
The Focus is considering switching from a LLC to a nonprofit organization, with hopes that available grant money could help its cause. In addition, a companion print publication, feature investigative stories, has been discussed as an outlet to showcase staff member’s work and attract advertisers.
To help identify ways to bring in additional funding, the Focus brought in another recent UCF graduate, Kat Engelauf, to serve as Marketing Director. Engelauf had worked with Smith at an internship. Smith, in turn, introduced her to Minerva.
“I came on board later,” said Engelauf, who works for the Princeton Review in New York City. “I was providing suggestions here and there, and they offered me the position.
“My initial motivation really was seeing how upset Alissa was at the opportunity of the Central Florida Future being taken away from students. Seeing how much this meant to her was certainly the initial driving factor. The main thing now is seeing how excited these editors and contributors are with the work they are able to do. They really are the heart and soul of what we do.”
Minerva said the initial response from the Orlando business community has been supportive.
“People are similarly outraged by Gannett abandoning an integral part of a community,” she said. “They are all excited that we’re taking this into our own hands. It’s better to have a community-focused newspaper being run by the community that it’s focused on. There’s a silver lining to Gannett closing the paper.”
It was one week ago when a third-year logistics management student at Ohio State University drove a car into a crowd of students gathered for a fire drill before getting out of the vehicle and attacking others with a butcher knife.
The Lantern, Ohio State’s student-run newspaper, quickly started covering the breaking story and had nearly 20 articles posted about the incident by the following night. Campus Editor Nick Roll (NR) and Assistant Campus Editor Sam Harris (SH) took part in reporting the story. Below, they share their experiences as they balanced being concerned students along with competing with professional journalists to get accurate, timely information.
Where were you when you first heard about this week’s incident and what was your first reaction?
NR: I was sitting in a Dunkin Donuts right across from campus. When I got the text, I packed up my computer, grabbed my backpack and hustled to the scene, or as close as I could get to it, which ended up being about a block away. My first thought was that I had to be there — I knew that wasn’t going to be my mom’s first thought, I knew she wouldn’t be happy, but as a journalist, I had to be there.
SH: On Mondays, I don’t have class and normally sleep in, so I was in my dorm, asleep, when my roommate woke me up and informed me of the situation. At that point, details were very vague and we thought there was an active shooter on campus. It didn’t really feel real at first, but when my phone started blowing up with people asking if I was somewhere safe, the severity of the situation began to sink in.
Who from the staff either heard about the situation first or started reporting first and what was that experience like?
NR: I met up with three other members of the staff at the police line blocking off the area around the scene of the incident. We all met by chance — people heard where the incident was and we all had the same thought. From there, our staff GroupMe, as well as ad-hoc, more targeted group chats, were our main points of communication. Between those, and phone calls, we organized pretty well. I took charge of the Twitter, but we also had reporters in another area of campus, where police suspected a second shooter (at that time, we still believed it was an active shooter). There were a few tweets from others on staff that weren’t quite my favorite — too loosely based, not from official sources — but it was nothing that I lost sleep over. I made it clear in the GroupMe if a tweet wasn’t up to my standards. We filed updates for the website from the sidewalk, using a nearby building’s wifi, and it was on a Google Doc that everyone could access and edit.
SH: I have to confess to being somewhat out of the loop as my building went into lockdown and so I couldn’t leave or really be of much use at the time. Our sports team was actually the first people there and so it was frustrating in that I couldn’t help them very much. I made sure to edit things as they came in, but really I just felt useless, I wanted to be there, helping my team.
Did you have a plan in place among your staff should breaking news like this happen? If not, are you thinking of having that discussion now for the future?
NR: We have a pretty active GroupMe. We have a list with everyone’s phone numbers. We all recognize the value of covering breaking news, and doing it quickly and accurately. I don’t think we have a “plan,” per se. We do make special lists when we go on breaks (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) of which people are in town, and what their contact info is. That way, if there’s something breaking in the middle of December, we know who can get to the scene and who can cover remotely. With the Internet, covering remotely is incredibly effective. We had staff all over the country this summer — myself in D.C. — and we were still filing multiple stories per week. But having people on the scene is still crucial.
SH: I mean, we have plans in place for breaking news but I think that an event like this kind of shatters even the best laid plans.
What was the contact like among staff during the lockdown? Was there a plan set for who was doing what?
NR: We have a GroupMe, and even though it’s mostly for coordinating potlucks, its basis is for covering breaking news. As it developed, we had multiple people tweeting. I was doing police updates from my scene, other reporters were doing updates from the second scene. Website updates were done by myself and another reporter who was with me at the scene, but by the time the day was over, we had added a bunch of names to the byline.
SH: It was really just all hands on deck. We had GroupMe discussions going, with everyone trying to confirm details from wherever they were at. We were scattered physically, but we stayed in communication, which I think really helped in terms of getting coverage out there.
Often times, it’s said that the local (pro or college) news outlets shine in these situations compared to national outlets who aren’t as familiar with the school/area/city. Did you find you had an advantage over other outlets? In other words, were there people you knew to contact, ways to report, etc. that others didn’t?
NR: We should be the best outlet for information at Ohio State. It’s our campus. There’s no reason anyone should cover it better than us. That’s not me being aggressive, it’s just that this is our backyard. It’s our job to be the best in our area. We know what the halls are called. We know where things are located. We have existing relationships with University Police and OSU spokesmen — most importantly, we have a huge social network once you add up all of the friends and mutual friends and acquaintances among our staff. We know the people on the ground. I think our advantage comes from the fact that any college is like a small town, and we eat, sleep and breathe Ohio State.
SH: I think our advantage wasn’t necessarily that we were on our home turf, but that we had a stake in the game. This is our home, our campus, and our friends who had been impacted by this event. We put everything into our coverage because we wanted our fellow students to get clear and accurate information as to what was going on. I think our advantage is that we cared.
What’s been the overall feedback you all received on your reporting?
NR: Mostly positive, especially from other outlets. And it has meant a lot — whether from other professionals, readers, or other college outlets. The only people mad at us are the ones who are mad we aren’t calling it “radical Islamic terrorism.” Look, I can’t call it that until the FBI calls it that. I asked them at the press conference if they were calling it terrorism, and they said no. Oh, and for what it’s worth, not one reporter at the press conference asked about any investigation into the attacker’s mental health. Go figure.
SH: Generally I think feedback was positive. I had a few professors comment that they had followed the Lantern closely during the incident and that they thought our coverage was well done.
Was there something that you felt you should have done differently in your reporting?
NR: If we had more man power, we would have been out and about at his former community college, in his neighborhood, knocking on doors, etc. to find out more about him. Nothing has really come from the stories on who he was yet, so it’s not something I’m losing sleep over. We’ve been doing great work on the campus front, and in our follow-up stories. That’s not meant to sound self-aggrandizing — I’m just really proud of my staff.
SH: I mean I wish I hadn’t been so isolated in lockdown, but looking back there’s not much I could have done there.
What’s one piece of advice you would give other student journalists if they had to report on a big breaking story?
NR: Breaking news is actually super easy. You write what you know. And you don’t know a lot. So you don’t write a lot. Just stick to the facts, like you would in any other situation. It’s like any other reporting — if you report it, you better be ready to stand behind every last word. Additionally, we’ve been doing crazy amounts of full-length follow-up stories. Those stories, which round up all the facts and present them in full context, or flesh out other details and turn them into full stories, are critical in the hours and days after the attack. You have to have something other than the original breaking report.
SH: I don’t know if there’s really any advice that can prepare you for something like this. I guess just keep in mind that it isn’t about you; it’s about the students that read the paper and expect real and relevant information. You’re not there for the glory or to see your name put up somewhere, you’re there because you owe it to your fellow students.
It has been more than a year since college media lost one of its great champions.
Dan Reimold covered college media with care, depth and positivity. Through his website, College Media Matters, he highlighted the amazing work of college media, shone the spotlight on its leaders and championed for innovation.
His passing has left a void in that coverage.
Today, College Media Association is proud to announce that College Media Matters will soon resume coverage. This relaunch comes with the blessing of Dan’s family, who reached out to CMA in hopes of continuing his legacy. No one knows how Dan juggled his teaching, advising and site duties; he was pretty amazing. So, CMA has put together a team of writers from across the country who hope to cover college media and the unique issues its faces.
The plan is for College Media Matters to return after Thanksgiving break. Candace Baltz of Oregon State University and Jim Rodenbush of Colorado State University will serve as editors in chief. Do you have a story idea? Would you like to contribute? They can be reached here.
Everyone takes a different path to their first media job. Some people land their first choice right out of college. Others need to apply to dozens of places before landing an interview. There’s not a perfect way to get the job you want, but it can help to learn from the experience of others. This week: Joe Little, a reporter for 10 News in San Diego, and master of the one-man-band standup.
What got you interested in a TV career?
I was a jock in high school and college. And, like most meatballs who need to be the center of attention, I wanted to be on SportsCenter. I loved Dan Patrick and wanted to be just like him.
Do you remember what you included on your first tape?
Depends on which tape you’re talking about. I made one to get into graduate school (and it sucked) and I made one to get my first job in Hagerstown, Maryland (and it sucked). I posted both videos on YouTube.
In your career, how many rejections did you get?
I saved them all. I think I actually received more than a dozen rejection letters. I think I didn’t even get a courtesy rejection letter a dozen more times.
What’s your advice for a reporter struggling to land their first job?
Besides sending your resume to employers, send your resume to mentors who can critique your resume. You may be doing it all wrong. But most importantly, never give up. Stay active. Interact with people via social media at the stations you are applying. Do anything you can to get your name on the desk of a News Director.
As you have moved up to bigger markets, what changes do you notice in the way larger stations look for reporters?
I don’t know if it’s exactly larger stations looking for something different. I think all stations are looking for employees who have multiple skills. You are screwed if you are a one-trick-pony.
In your experience, what are the things young reporters overlook about their tape, or in their search?
I think too many reporters aren’t realists. You’re not going to work in a top 50, maybe even a top 100 market out of college. Very, very, very few people do. Simple things don’t help either. Never put someone else on your tape (co-anchors, anchor tosses, other reporters, etc.). No one is impressed you interviewed a celebrity. Even fewer people want to hear the celebrity’s answer.
What was the one thing about a TV news job search you wish someone would have told you in college?
Current and recent student journalists, journalism professors, student media advisers and news media professionals tackled this topic during a recent #collegemedia Twitter chat. For more insights and advice from the regular chats, check out the #collegemedia live chat page.
This Sunday night, join the #collegemedia live chat. Stop by Twitter starting at 7 p.m. EST for a fun, free-flowing, hour-long discussion about college media, new media, millennials and the future of journalism.
Why Should Students Still Study Journalism Given the Sorry State of the News Industry? Here is the Perfect Answer via 1 Chart & a 90-Second Clip
I am often asked to defend the very existence of journalism education. If you’re reading this, you most likely know exactly what I mean — either because you have been asked to do the same thing or because you are the one doing the asking.
To be clear, nowadays, it’s an extremely fair, and even needed, question. After all, the industry as a whole — and especially its local news backbone — is cutting losses and shedding jobs at a sadly prodigious rate. At the same time, students (and their families) are spending insane amounts and piling up gigantic debt in pursuit of a higher education degree. As a parent pessimistic about his son’s journalism interest once put it to me, “It’s a heap of money we don’t really have for a career I’m not confident will be waiting for him.” (He then asked if I could autograph a copy of my textbook, a request so weirdly timed I actually laughed, thinking he was joking.)
I have my own version of a serious defense to this question/concern, which, yes, I can recite with sincere (guarded) optimism. As my loyal readers know, it’s also a question I often ask the student journalists, professors and professionals I interview — in part simply to see if my own spirited rallying cry is still at least marginally on point and in line with the thinking of others across the journalism education spectrum.
I recently came across two additional showings of support for this defense. The first is featured in a massive — and massively significant — new survey conducted by the American Press Institute. It’s only been out a few days, but anyone even remotely geeky about journalism has surely at least pretended to read some of it by now.
Above and beyond its many other fascinating findings, the one that has proven most newsworthy and of interest to me: A surprisingly high percentage of professionals who graduated over the past decade from U.S. journalism schools consider themselves journalists today — even those who work in industries and jobs that may on spec seem unrelated or only slightly related to the old school notion of journalism.
I’ll spare you the pablum and cut right to the heart of that awesomeness: Journalism is not confined to a single field in the 21st century. And it is surely not confined to a particular set of job titles or type of work. The former j-students now impacting all corners of commerce, politics, the law, education, technology and media are telling us one thing loudly and collectively: The skills and knowledge they gleaned from their j-education is still so strongly embedded within them that, even beyond what their industry or position descriptions may say, at their core they know they are journalists.
I’ll put it another way: Journalism, more than ever, is now everywhere, impacting the way the world is shaped and seen, inside and out.
And the key here is the education component. Because in a world in which everyone can be journalists, or at least say they are, it will be those with the real journalistic training and knowledge who will rise above and be recognized and (hopefully) over time financially rewarded.
This is at the heart of a brief aside made by Sree Sreenivasan during a talk this summer to kick off CUNY’s annual Social Media Weekend. I’ve embedded the YouTube video below to start at the exact spot he dives into his “why journalism” spiel.
“Journalism is not dying. Journalism is more robust than ever before.”
~ Sree Sreenivasan ~
Why journalism? According to Sreenivasan, the chief digital officer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and former longtime faculty member at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, there is more journalism being produced on more outlets and in more ways for more interested people than ever before. The business side is in flux, to be sure, like so many industries in this age of transition. But that is only a current problem needing a long-term solution, not a reason to turn away from an education and life centered on meaningful content creation, storytelling, sharing and engaging.
Current and recent student journalists, journalism professors, student media advisers and news media professionals tackled this topic during a recent #collegemedia Twitter chat. For more insights and advice from the regular chats, check out the #collegemedia live chat page.