Duke Chronicle Editors Push for Less Coursework for Top Eds.

Running a student newspaper, big or small, daily or weekly, is a full-time job.  It is a practical, hands-on educational experience that teaches a student just as much as (and usually more than) even the best of classes.  In an editorial published today, top editors at The Chronicle, the student daily at Duke University, are pushing for more recognition of their hard work and the educational benefits accrued from it.

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Through an interesting “underloading” policy, certain leaders of campus organizations at Duke are being allowed to lessen their coursework demands by having their leadership positions count for one-credit each over two semesters.  The goal is to give these students a bit more time to pursue their work, learn from doing, and in turn hopefully improve the university with their achievements.

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The top editor at The Chronicle is included among the student leaders who are eligible for what is basically a course reduction.  The newspaper’s leadership though wants more than two semesters of reduction.  The arguments: The top editor normally serves a year first as a higher-up of a specific department within the paper, a full-time job itself; current top editors are already “unofficially” reducing their coursework through easy electives such as phys. ed.; the university lacks a “true journalism program,” making the newspaper an incredibly important learning vehicle on par with coursework; and a university the size and caliber of Duke deserves a daily paper and in turn a staff with a bit more time to put it together.

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This dilemma is in the end unsolvable.  Why?  Because it represents the fascinating engima that is the college newspaper.  It is both the heartbeat of most elite campuses while at the same time technically relegated to a mere student activity or an independent side pursuit.  It is of course officially an outside endeavor, done in free time by students who are at university for another main reason (classes/graduating), yet often represents the very core of j-students’ passions and reasons for being.  The time and effort it takes to produce would stun almost anyone curious or courageous enough to spend even a week in a typical student newsroom.

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Does this time commitment, the quality of content, and the necessity of its existence on university campuses deserve greater recognition and respect from the hand that feeds it (with information) and that it at times bites?

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  1. […] As I’ve written before, when done right and with full enthusiasm, running a student newspaper, big or small, daily or weekly, is a full-time job.  It is a practical, hands-on educational experience that teaches a student just as much as (and usually more than) even the best of classes.  The reality is that determining just rewards for such work is *incredibly* complicated and dependent on a number of factors- the news outlet’s budget, its level of independence, and its oversight (i.e. who is empowered to make the salary/stipend decisions?). […]