Kaylee Fagan spent years putting off the newspaper class required of her at San Francisco State University. She knew she wanted to do something different that didn’t fit with the traditional print product, so she was hesitant to take a class that required her to work at the student newspaper.
When she finally signed up for the course in her third year, she decided to pitch one of her different ideas: a weekly video series that focused on what was being called fake news, exploring its origins and proliferation.
“I’d heard somewhere in my time in university,” Fagan said, “that you should do the work in college that you want to be paid to do after college. So that stuck with me.”
Fagan pitched her idea for The Fake News Watch and was thrilled when the idea was accepted.
“I knew I had multiple ideas for things I wanted to make that weren’t going to be news copy,” she said. “I embraced it and pitched this idea. And I got approved to pursue it. It was really exciting.”
The Golden Gate Xpress video series is still new, but Fagan said she believes this topic is very important right now.
“I took the election and the results very personally,” she said. “I felt like what we do in journalism school and what my professors do was at stake. This pursuit of accuracy and getting it right was in danger and threatened. [This is] my own form of resistance.”
While the thoroughly researched show offers much for all audiences, Fagan said students are her primary audience.
“Our main focus is with a younger audience in mind,” she said. “Younger college students who are interested in being media literate. [People who want to learn] how to look critically at the country and their own communities.”
Her lofty goal, to teach students to be more media literate, can affect what kind of media survives these times, she said.
“If [viewers] take anything away from the show, [I hope] it is to be more aware of the media you consume,” Fagan said. “Our individual media consumption is very much vital to what kind of media survives and what media makes good journalism.”
As a student, Fagan said she has had to devote much time to this project on top of classes and a part time job. She said she routinely spends 16-18 hours a week on the video series. She said she also feels she has to please a lot more people than her professional counterparts.
“We are attempting to please a lot of people,” Fagan said. “I know that happens in the professional world, too. We have a unique experience as students with multiple advisers and the department who all have different expectations of us. We are being pulled in a lot of different directions.”
Recently Fagan was asked to speak at the ACP Midwinter Convention about her new project. She said she told students they “shouldn’t be afraid to push the boundaries of what they think student journalism looks like.”
“This was an entirely new format for Xpress,” Fagan said.“It was scary and [we didn’t have a] lot of guidance. [We were] hoping that what we made was something people would watch. I’m so proud that we took that chance and made that leap into the unknown.”
While The Fake News Watch has been educational to viewers, Fagan said she has also learned from the project.
“I have the tendency to not want to start a project if I don’t think I can get it right on the first try,” she said. “This demonstrated how silly and unproductive that is. Pitch the initial idea and start something even if it’s not perfect on the first try.”
Fagan also said she thinks journalism is at a crossroads right now.
“As far as fake news is concerned,” she said. “Fake news comes from so many different places and facets that it’ll either destroy journalism or revitalize it. Journalism, as an industry, needs to regain an understanding of our own place in the landscape and [the fake news myth] has propelled us back into the competition.”
Whenever college yearbook folks hear that another college yearbook is being cancelled or transitioned into something like a magazine or table top book, they get nervous. But when it was announced that the Western Kentucky University Talisman was transitioning, it was hard to be nervous when the students and professionals were so excited about what was next.
The Talisman yearbook was a staple in the CMA Pinnacle Awards and the ACP Pacemakers, so it’s no surprise the first Talisman magazine was a design and story telling success.
Here’s how this successful transition was made from the mouths of the student and professional leaders. Kylee Kaetzel is the very first editor in chief of the Talisman magazine and Charlotte Turtle is the adviser who helped her make a big leap into a new world.
How long did you plan the transition?
Charlotte Turtle (Talisman adviser): The magazine format was something we discussed regularly. Our students wanted to add it to our list of products and many hoped to go into the magazine industry after graduation so it seemed like an obvious choice. In 2013, our budget was cut by 47 percent. We started talking about the possibility of change for the future. Our yearbook moved from a free distribution model to at sales model. For a couple years, we were able to make our budget work with reoccurring one time money. In the midst of this change, we kept discussing the possibility of a new product. A magazine was always at the forefront of the conversation.
In the fall of 2015, we realized that our budget was not going to cover our costs. The yearbook was halfway completed and there was no guarantee we could afford the printing bill with the amount of books we had sold. The two brave editors-in-chief met with the Provost and requested the funds we were lacking. He generously met our need and our 2016 book would be printed. Although this was great news, we knew that we couldn’t go on living this way year to year. The conversation about our future got moved to the front burner during the beginning of the spring semester and we started to be realistic about our options. The 2016 editors needed time to make their yearbook special since it would be the last edition. In the meantime, the leaders for the next year needed time to plan what the magazine could be. We had a very sobering meeting and decided it was time. The announcement was thoughtfully planned for March 15 and after that day we didn’t look back.
What kind of research and input did you seek?
Charlotte: We have a committee of journalism professionals and alumni from our program. They were very involved in the discussion since the initial budget cuts. They gave us some good input from their experiences. We looked to professional magazines who we had been admiring for years. We also went to the list of Pacemaker winners and saw what kinds of work they were producing.
How did you get buy in from your staff and from the university?
Charlotte: Our editors really took the lead to get the staff behind the new idea. Although the loss of the yearbook was something we all took time to mourn, we refocused on the potential of something new. It was a really quick recovery because the excitement of the magazine.
Kylee Kaetzel (Editor in Chief): I wasn’t in on the ground work of the transition, because the co-Editors-in-Chief at the time were at the head of that process. After the transition was definite, and I became Editor-in-Chief of the Talisman Magazine, we had to decide what direction we were going to take this new publication. Although we wanted to keep the storytelling aspect of the Talisman alive, putting that in a magazine format was going to look different. The buzz and excitement from potential staff members was almost overwhelming, as we had dozens of applications to be on staff for the first issue. I think the student body and staff realized that a change was coming, and thankfully, they embraced that change.
It was difficult to know if the university was fully on board with the transition. Although they approved the change, we were still going to need their support in order to make this a success. It was clear that everyone was all-in to the magazine when President Dr. Gary Ransdell showed up to our magazine launch party in December. He came and read through each and every page of the first issue of the Talisman magazine and gave nothing but praise for the product and the way the transition was handled on campus. That is when I knew we had taken the right step by making a magazine.
What has been the hardest part of the switch?
Charlotte: The hardest part was jumping into tight deadlines and figuring out something that was totally new. Defining the type of magazine we wanted to be and the content we wanted to produce had to be nailed down during the first month of school. From there, the editorial board had to convey that new mission to their staffers. All the content had to be produced in a little over a month so we could have time to figure out the look and feel of the magazine before we sent it off to the printer.
Kylee: I was never really on yearbook staff, except for doing public relations and social media, so transitioning from the yearbook to the magazine wasn’t difficult for me. I hadn’t been used to any particular way of executing a yearbook prior to becoming Editor-in-Chief, so I was ready to begin something new. I would say the hardest part of the switch for me has been coordinating the details, from how many pages it will be to what kind of content we wanted to publish to educating the campus community about our transition. Everyone knows that college kids (millennials) are one of the toughest groups to reach, so I made sure we have a marketing director who understood that struggle and was ready to get to work. We realize we are making this magazine for the campus community, but if they never hear about how we are, then they won’t pick it up. We are continually working on improving our social media following and using our website, wkutalisman.com, as a catalyst for the magazine.
What has been most surprising?
Charlotte: The most surprising thing was how well the WKU student body received our new product. We were fully distributed in less than two weeks. Students were praising our product on social media and bragging on our staff. That was a feeling I was used to during my time as a student when we handed out the yearbooks for free, but my student had not experienced that kind of reception. It is like the clouds have been lifted and we get to make something beautiful again without the gloom and doom of budget restrictions. Our staff also really enjoyed the process of magazine creation. They are free to create without the yearbook limitations so the magazine is trendier and more culturally relevant. Before, we were worried about the person picking the yearbook up off the shelf 50 years from now. Today, we can focus on the students who are walking the Hill every day and the culture that defines WKU today.
Kylee: I’m not saying this has been easy, but I am surprised by how smooth everything has gone so far. We chose a great printer, hired an amazing staff and produced a magazine that I am very proud of. There were definitely bumps we had to smooth out along the way, but Charlotte, the Talisman adviser, helped guide the process through every step and make sure everything was taken care of. I wasn’t sure what the Talisman transition was going to look like, and I had zero experience in publishing or producing a magazine, but with a talented staff of about 50 individuals and support from the university, I couldn’t imagine a better first issue.
If you could sum up this experience in six words, what would they be?
Charlotte: A refreshing facelift to the Talisman.
Kylee: Challenging, rewarding, tiring, learning, growing and leading.
As journalists around the country seek to cover the new administration and its policies, student journalists offer opinions on the effectiveness of the travel ban and its impact on college campuses. Here’s a sampling of what students are saying.
- Washington State University, The Daily Evergreen
- Rice University, The Rice Thresher
- Valencia College, Valencia Voice
- Colorado State University, The Rocky Mountain Collegian
- University of Minnesota, Minnesota Daily
- University of Alabama, The Crimson White
- University of Mississippi, The Reflector
- University of Louisiana-Lafayette, The Vermilion
- University of Florida, The Independent Florida Alligator
- Miami University, The Miami Student
- Illinois State University, Vidette Online
- University of Nevada-Reno, The Nevada Sagebrush
- Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, The Online Beacon
- Georgetown University, The Hoya
- Texas A&M, The Battalion
When the Clemson Tigers surprised the Alabama Crimson Tide by winning the college football National Championship, the staff of The Tiger surprised themselves by not only covering the game (before even being back on campus), but by producing a special edition in record turnaround time.
Most students were still on winter break, the game was in Tampa and funding was low. But the staff managed to send a photographer, coordinate social media coverage and was ready to roll when the football team pulled out the win.
Despite having a smaller staff than usual, Saavon Smalls, Tiger editor in chief, said he wasn’t worried.
“I had two big things in mind: what exactly should we cover and who could best cover it,” he said.
After the initial coverage proved popular, Smalls said the decision to produce a special edition was pretty easy.
“From the Sikes Sit-In, to Dabo’s comments on Colin Kaepernick, to our top 25 public university ranking, this past year has shown that we cover Clemson in both the good and bad,” he said. “So when we win our second ever National Championship, it’s too much of a historic moment not to document it.”
The turnaround for the edition was fast, and the advertising goal was higher than the staff was used to, $5,000 in 24 hours.
“I was stunned because this was a tall order regardless of the time frame to achieve it,” Lillian Poston, public relations consultant, said.
She said the staff had to think out of the box to try to meet the goal, but originally fell short.
“We immediately emailed our clients from the fall,” she said. “We also delivered thank you notes to our more constant clients. In the end we did not meet our goal but we did better than we expected considering the deadline.”
While they didn’t make their initial advertising goal, to cover expenses they decided to sell additional copies of the special edition that had a press run of 10,000 copies.
“We are selling the special edition to anyone who wants it that doesn’t currently go to Clemson University,” Franklin Fowler, marketing/sales director, said. “We have gotten plenty of requests and most of them buy more than one copy.”
The Tiger still provided free copies to the on-campus community, and handed the issue out at the victory parade.
“We allotted some for normal distribution, some for the parade and some for sell only, this allowed us to maintain tradition by offering the free copies as well as additional for purchase as keepsakes,” Poston said.
The sales and marketing teams had concerns about the quick turnaround and student interest, but said they felt they did well given all the constraints.
“The only criticism I have received is that we should have printed more copies because they disappeared from the stands almost instantly,” Poston said.
In addition to being incredibly popular, Smalls said the edition also shows the human element of Clemson.
“It shows that our school is complex and that [The Tiger] is always recording it,” Smalls said.
He said he was most proud of his staff for being “all in” even with all the extenuating circumstances they faced.
“It was easy from them to say ‘we only agreed to do online content, this is too much’ or ‘I don’t do sports, so I’m not of help,’ but they didn’t,” Smalls said. “They put 110 percent into this because they love this paper, this school and what we do.”
The championship brought a lot of good for the campus, but also for The Tiger.
“In the short run, students will be more excited about our products because the special edition was one of the best editions we have put out so far,” Fowler said. “In the long run, this will make students want to join our organizations and also create something special in the future.”
Smalls agrees the special edition impacted the staff beyond just coverage and revenue.
“I’ve been the new EIC for a few weeks now and I’ve been preaching that we should be a staff that takes our work seriously, recognizes that we’re all students, has fun together and creates a tight-knit community within itself,” he said. “I think that this issue was a great way to show that we’ve taken heed to that.”
For a look at some of the coverage Smalls and his team curated, check out these links.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday selected Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated nearly one year ago by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The story, written by Jessica Spitz and Aaron Holmes, details Gorsuch’s connection to student media. Gorsuch, who graduated from Columbia in 1988, was a columnist for the Spectator and founder of the satirical newspaper The Federalist.
The Columbia University library offers a detailed archive of the Spectator and plenty of written material from a college-aged future Supreme Court nominee.
What exactly will an interested reader find in the archives? Spectator writers Huber Gonzalez and Veronica Grace Taleon provided a recap in an article published today.
Meanwhile, The Federalist is celebrating it newfound claim to fame.
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 third in a series showcasing student publications and how they’ve covered one of the most unique elections in United States history.
I turned to The Daily Orange’s managing editor, Alexa Diaz, just a few hours after we sent the paper to the press on Election Night. The high from such a thrilling newsroom experience was very much alive, and we discussed how we’d continue to cover one of the most controversial and intriguing elections in U.S. history.
Well, we thought, we could do a special edition. We talked to members of the news team, who, being the newsies they are, were completely on board. We ran it by our general manager, who was excited about the idea.
The Daily Orange hasn’t published on a Saturday in a number of years. We dropped our regular Friday edition in 2008 and haven’t published a non-sports guide on a weekend since. But the thought of trying something new was intriguing for all of us because we didn’t really know what to expect. Over the course of the weekend, though, six members of The D.O. staff took to D.C. and another three to New York City to extensively cover what everyone in the world was talking about.
The preparation for Inauguration Day was much different than Election Day. For the latter we were able to review old editions, talk to former editors and had an entire summer and semester to plan. Soon after the decision was made to do a special edition for the inauguration, our news team went into planning mode.
“Weirdly enough, my favorite part was all of the planning in the weeks leading up to the weekend,” said News Editor Michael Burke, who led operations in Syracuse. “The paper wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did without the preparation.”
We decided over Winter Break who would be going down to D.C. and to New York. The teams assembled were diverse in skill sets, some specializing in digital-driven reporting, others in coverage and visuals.
The D.C. crew left early Thursday morning and stayed with the family of our presentation director. While walking around the city that night, the team followed a protest to the Trump International Hotel, the first glimpse of what would prove to be a lively weekend.
Both the reporters in D.C. and New York had early mornings Friday, arriving in their respective downtowns around 4:30 a.m. The D.O. was not credentialed going into the weekend, but acquired a few passes and formal inauguration tickets the day before.
Most of the work around the time of the swearing in was done on social media, with a focus on attendees while the staff in Syracuse wrote of the speech. We started using live blogs last year and used one throughout the day to get the social media posts out to readers even more.
“There’s no simulation for an event of this magnitude. No matter how many classes you take, how many articles you read, or the amount of local protests you cover, the scale of this is something you simply can’t prepare for,” Gedetsis said. “The best part of covering it is knowing that I now have that working knowledge at my disposal.”
After things had died down, the D.C. team filed stories from the Center for Public Integrity newsroom. The Syracuse staff had been working hard on layout and was ready to go to press once the stories were edited and placed.
We sent the paper just after midnight. We shifted our delivery strategy for the special edition, delivering more copies out into the city of Syracuse than onto campus itself.
While the special edition paper came out Saturday, there was still work to be done.
The Women’s March on Washington, and the sister marches in Syracuse and New York, were stories of interest for our readers. We covered all three, with online stories through the weekend and print coverage in Monday’s paper. Thanks to the generosity of a D.O. alumna, we had an additional two staffers in D.C. for Saturday’s march, one reporter and a columnist.
“I talked to people of all different backgrounds — immigrants, fathers, foreign visitors, children — each with their own reason for coming out that day,” said Kathryn Krawczyk, a senior staff writer who was in New York City. “I loved learning their stories and working with a great team to figure out the best way to tell them.”
Reconvened in Syracuse on Sunday, everyone agreed: This weekend won’t be one we soon forget.
“Political opinions aside, this was undeniably a monumental weekend in American politics and because of that we were able to put together a historical newspaper,” said Burke, the news editor. “Regardless of what happens over the next four years, that edition of The Daily Orange will live on and so will all of the memories I made with an absurdly talented Daily Orange staff over that weekend.”
Many students who get into college media are looking to have their voices heard, and Gabe Fleck is certainly one of them. But what makes him different is the other way he gets his voice heard: through singing, songwriting and performing.
Gabe is the editor of Beaver’s Digest at Oregon State University, and an aspiring musician. Last spring he was scheduled to headline OSU’s Got Talent competition, and he was heavily featured in the marketing materials for the event. But his journalism side got to him, and instead he attended College Media Association’s Spring National College Media Convention in New York City.
While Gabe intends to pursue music after graduation, he feels he is making a difference in the media world, too, by encouraging other students to find and use their voices.
How did you get involved with OMN?
I started at OMN as a graphic designer designing page layouts and jumping on any opportunity to contribute to the magazine. I remained a graphic designer for the publication for two terms, Winter & Spring of 2015. Then in Fall 2015 I gained the position of Graphics Editor and held that through Spring term of 2016. I went out for Editor-in-Chief of the magazine in the late Spring term of 2016 and I have held the position ever since.
What do you feel your greatest accomplishment in college media has been?
My greatest accomplishment in college media has been the influence in which I am granted to have on my fellow peers. From leading my staff to producing a magazine that strives to challenge perspectives, I am present with opportunities to inspire many great minds on campus. It is a position that I try never to take for granted.
You were to be the headliner for a major campus singing event (OSU’s Got Talent), but you backed out so you could attend a college media convention. Why did you think that was so important?
I have no doubt that more music opportunities will present themselves in my post college career. That being stated, I don’t think there will be a time again when I had the chance to be at the heart of New York City learning the immense amount of applicable information
For me, the CMA convention represented the grandest of opportunities and gave me memories that will simply never be replaced.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d done in college that you haven’t done yet?
The regret list for college is not a long one for me. If I had to pick one thing I wish I would have done in college that I haven’t done yet, it would most likely be attending a soccer game.
What do you tell people who wonder why anyone would study or pursue a career in media nowadays?
I wonder why someone wouldn’t want to study or pursue a career in media today. As a society, we are at the most immediate, advanced stages of reporting and spreading news. I would hope that a majority of the young adult population has a voice and wants this voice to be heard. The best outlet for this passionate voice is the media. With contributions to media and the telling of honest stories, young adults from all backgrounds have the opportunity to share amazing stories. It is an indescribable feeling to know that you are making a slight difference in this world every day you got to work.
With all your different talents, what do you hope to do after graduation?
I hope to continue my pursuits at a sustainable music career that could provide a majority of my funds needed to live a comfortable life. To ensure that I don’t jump blindly into the entertainment business however I am graduating with a degree in Graphic Design as well and I could see myself working that as the “day job.”
In honor of College Media Matters’ founder Dan Reimold, what is your six-word memoir?
Be proud but never be content.
You can find more of Gabe’s music through the links below.
The Women’s March on Washington, combined with the more than 600 sister marches that took place across the United States on Saturday, is believed to be the largest day of protest in the country’s history.
College media outlets were out en masse covering these marches, from major cities such as Washington, Los Angeles and Denver to the smaller demonstrations in locations like Carbondale, Illinois.
While far from a complete listing, here’s a look at the coverage from the college media landscape.
“Activists fill Lexington for women’s march,” Kentucky Kernel, University of Kentucky
“Hundreds of thousands of women march in Washington following inauguration,” The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan
“UCLA students protest Trump at Los Angeles Women’s March,” Daily Bruin, UCLA
“Hopeful, defiant atmosphere pervades Women’s March,” The Miami Hurricane, University of Miami
“Stronger Together, We March On,” The Scarlet & Gray Free Press, UNLV
“Gallery: Women’s March bring demonstrators to Syracuse, New York City and Washington, D.C.,” The Daily Orange, Syracuse University
“Women’s March on Washington,” The News Record, University of Cincinnati
“Carbondale Women’s March draws hundreds in a show of equality, solidarity,” Daily Egyptian, Southern Illinois University
“Pittsburgh takes part in alternative inauguration events and sister marches,” The Pitt News, University of Pittsburgh
“VIDEO: Women’s March on Denver, aimed at Trump administration, draws over 100,000,” CU Independent, University of Colorado
“After the march, action,” The Daily Iowan, University of Iowa
” ‘Moving and beautiful’: UMD students join 500,000 for Women’s March on Washington,” The Diamondback, University of Maryland
“VIDEO: The March on Lansing,” The State News, Michigan State University
“Women’s March on Austin,” The Daily Texan, University of Texas
“Disrupting whiteness at the Women’s March on St. Louis,” Student Life, Washington University, St. Louis
“Lincoln women join in day of mass demonstration,” The Daily Nebraskan, University of Nebraska
“Women’s March in Helena,” Montana Kaimin, University of Montana
Last Friday, as much of the media world was covering the inauguration of the 45th president, Penn State’s Patti Hartranft was trying to clean out her office after 40 years of service to The Daily Collegian. In preparation of her retirement, Patti filled boxes of memorabilia and discussed the lessons she learned over her career.
A year after graduating from college, Patti moved to University Park and took a job as a production manager and typesetter. (Note to young folks: this meant she took the stories from students and the wire, putting them in the correct font and arranging them for publication). She worked her way through the system through operations manager until her last job, General Manager.
As you can imagine, Patti has seen a lot of change in her time at The Daily Collegian. She said she thinks the biggest change she has seen has been the introduction of the Internet and the deluge of information that has followed.
“Back in 2000 or so when media was exploding, students were suddenly deluged with so much information,” she said. “Their attention is drawn in 50 different directions. Never have we had to scream for students’ attention until now.”
Patti said that while this influx of technology has made many the job of the reporter easier in many ways, it also has posed new challenges for students entering the workforce.
“[The toughest thing these students will face] is just finding the jobs,” she said. “And having all the skills. It’s about doing everything. Live tweeting and all of that. They all have to have all the skills.”
The introduction of the internet has posed other challenges for The Daily Collegian, as it has for other newspapers, not just student ones.
“We have not been able to become digital first.” Patti said. “Our students are still tied to print. We had been trying to get to that point. We haven’t turned that corner yet.”
She said she thinks the print edition often gets in the way, though students will break stories online.
“I’m not sure all of our staff picks up the print paper,” she said. “We have to change the mindset. We need to get the thrill [of online first] to last.”
Over her 40 years at The Daily Collegian, Patti has seen the paper’s many crises, including 9/11, the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the passing of Joe Paterno. She said those things have stuck with her.
“We really did have to stop the presses when the coach and athletic director and president were fired [as fallout of the Sandusky investigation],” she said. “That happened around 9 or 10 at night. We decided we had to rework that front page.”
Additionally, Patti said the death of Joe Paterno was another crisis for the newsroom.
“Our online competitor announced it a day before he died,” she said. “Our editor wanted it confirmed [even though other outlets were running with the story]. To her credit she stuck by her story and that was a good thing. We hanged the press run to 35,000 copies, which was scary. But after publication, we ended up ordering 10,000 more.”
The post-9/11 edition order was only 30,000 copies, she said.
“Seems funny that we needed more when Paterno died,” she said.
After 40 years of educating and advising, Patti said the hardest thing about advising was learning to ask students the right questions and letting them draw their own conclusion. She said she hopes she taught students professionalism, integrity and credibility.
While she said she can’t pin down one favorite memory with The Daily Collegian, she will miss the fun of being in the newsroom.
“The times in the newsroom when the business manager is dancing on the desk for beating big quota, [I’ll miss those times], she said. “I’ve had a lot of good times. I can’t get it down to one moment.”
The first day of spring classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas brought with it good news for its student newspaper.
The advisory board for The Scarlett & Gray Free Press approved Tuesday morning a funding plan that would allow the newspaper to operate through the 2017 calendar year.
Under the plan, the Las Vegas Review-Journal would donate $40,000 and print the weekly publication for free beginning with its first edition of the spring semester next Monday, Jan. 23.
“The student newspaper at UNLV has always been an important resource for the Review-Journal and all other news media sources in the valley,” Review-Journal editor-in-chief Keith Moyer said in article published Jan. 10. “We felt it was important to help as we might in ensuring the newspaper’s doors remain open, until it can get itself on better financial footing.”
The agreement comes at a time when funding cuts threatened the student newspaper’s existence. The paper received $30,000 from the Student Life Funding Committee for this academic year, a sharp cut from the $86,500 it had received the previous year.
The staff started a fundraising campaign in November that raised $3,000.
Editor-in-Chief Bianca Cseke said her biggest concern initially was what, if any involvement the Review-Journal would have in the day-to-day operations of the newspaper. Under the agreement, the Review-Journal would have no involvement.
Moving forward, Cseke said the newspaper will be looking at ways to increase its revenue sources. Among the first steps has been the hiring of the paper’s first student fundraising director.
The Scarlett & Gray Free Press is starting its first semester under its new name. Cseke announced in November that the newspaper would change from The Rebel Yell, a name it has held in some form for more than 60 years, because of concerns over its confederate symbolism.
The name change became official at Tuesday’s advisory board meeting.
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