College Media Critiques: Meaningful or Just Mean-Spirited?

There are not many of us who blog regularly about college media en masse.  Yet, according to an intriguing recent Poynter piece, commentaries, critiques, and behind-the-scenes news of specific SMOs (student media outlets) are growing in blog-land (at least in the state in which the writer spent part of his higher ed. career).  The blogs’ existence and the bloggers’ motivations behind them raise an interesting question, one that interested observers occassionally ask me as well: Is it right to critique student media?

Those in the lay-off-’em camp cite j-students’ still-in-training status.  Many students of course work for SMOs without pay, course credit or sleep, lending a helping hand out of idealism and for the experience and a résumé boost.  So, the argument goes, an outside blog-watch of all major and minor moves and miscues comes across as just mean-spirited and demoralizing to those who deserve our appreciation and need a pick-me-up (and a paycheck).

It’s an argument I have never been able to buy.  I critique because I care.  I critique because to me being a student does not somehow make you a second-class journalist. Students are at the heart and on the leading edge of journalism’s 21st-century reinvention. They do not simply need (professional, courteous) critiques, they deserve them. College media matter and if a blogtastic or more expansive treatise on their work offers them even one nugget of truth or one glimmer of new perspective to chew on, the journalism field as a whole will be the better for it.

Quality critiques also provide j-students with thicker skin.  The Poynter piece offers my favorite related quote, from a Marquette University political science professor who apparently frequently criticizes the school’s student newspaper: “Taking some flak is something that journalists don’t like, but it is part of the job. So when they go out and get jobs with real newspapers they are going to run into some flak. The whole project is to socialize them into being journalists.”

One Response to “College Media Critiques: Meaningful or Just Mean-Spirited?”
  1. I don’t buy it either. I’m the EIC of my paper with no pay or course credit. We have no journalism program, save for a single Intro the Journalism course. We all do it because we care about the Drew community and we want to look out for it.

    If there are legitimate critiques to be had that are gonna make us do that better, I’m all for hearing them out.

    However, there are always those in our community who just feel the need to be mean-spirited or whiny about The Acorn and I don’t really have any patience for those folks.

    David A.M. Wilensky
    The Acorn