HackCollege Interviews Onward State Editors at Penn State (Nickelback Not Amused)

I recently came across an interesting audio interview featuring Davis Shaver and Evan Kalikow, two of the undergrad gurus behind Penn State University’s “unruly news blog” Onward State.  For those who might forget, the pair and their PSU new(s) media machine earned a prominent shout-out in a mid-January Chronicle of Higher Ed. piece.  The lead: “Davis Shaver may be the future of alternative student media. From his room in Springfield- a dorm floor painted with characters from ‘The Simpsons’ the Penn State sophomore battles a storied college newspaper that employs 200 student journalists.”

Late last month, Shaver and Kalikow took a brief break from battle to speak with Kelly Sutton, co-founder and top gun of the crazy cool student betterment and empowerment blog HackCollege (more on him and HC in an upcoming post).  One thing I learned about Onward State through the trio’s chat: It was almost called Keystone!  Fortunately, this brainstorm was quickly nixed during the “alpha” planning stage.  (Onward State, meanwhile, is apparently a phrase popularized on campus through a PSU football fight song.)

Otherwise, along with a very funny exchange about the (lack of) quality of the band Nickelback, my three favorite snippets from the interview are below.

Shaver, discussing his about-face on joining The Daily Collegian, PSU’s student paper, and instead starting OS: “Last fall, I arrived at Penn State and I was planning on joining the newspaper.  I got there and it just kind of felt- I don’t know- like a newspaper. I realized that I didn’t really want to be doing another four years at a paper. You know, because through high school [he worked on a student paper], which is different but still the same kind of thing.”

A quick breakdown of the Collegian/Onward State competition factor:

Sutton: Is there a certain rivalry between you and the Collegian, like do you guys not sit at the same tables in the cafeteria?

Shaver: There have been definitely occasions where the tension between the two media outlets kind of went over to our extracurricular social lives.  For the most part, it’s a fun, I think, professional kind of thing.  We both want to do a good job and when we’re trying to go after the same students, naturally we’re going to compete.

A back-and-forth on what the future holds for collegemediatopia:

Sutton: As far as I know, you guys are one of the first groups of people to kind of do this successfully.  Do you think these types of things will be more commonplace . . . to the point where student newspapers will just completely go away and you’ll have things like Onward State that just get like handed down from year to year?

Shaver: I think the major question . . . is [after the founders of these sites graduate] how do you transition it to the next generation of staff?  We’ll know the full story in about two years.

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