“First Worldwide College Website” Set to Launch in Sept.

Its name: College NewsNet International.  Its niche and significance, according to its founders: “the first worldwide college website.”

Plans for CNI were solidified and presented during the recent World Journalism Education Congress in South Africa.  The basic structure seems like a mix of UPIU, Huffington Post College, and Her Campus.  It will be “a collective space” for j-students anywhere and everywhere to contribute content of all forms for consumption by peers and potential pick-ups by outside media. Apparently, a student editor will be the point-person for undergrads’ work at each school.

In their project proposal, the CNI co-founders share: “In a world full of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, ‘tweets’ and blogs are unfortunately becoming acceptable substitutions for thorough, responsible reporting. Accordingly, college students are in serious need of a quality, one-stop ‘space’ to strengthen their journalism skills, experience convergence and to become engaged participants in the way tomorrow’s journalists will connect with one another.”

My take: While staffers at student media outlets probably disagree about the purported vanishing of “thorough, responsible reporting,” the project’s idealism and global reach may be intriguing to them.  The key for CNI’s success will be reaching a tipping point.  It must actually feature quality work from a variety of schools and geographic areas.  If it does not quickly establish that baseline diversity and quality in the eyes of j-students and, more importantly, J&MC programs, this whole thing will be renamed epic fail.   It will become a repository for half-baked class assignments that students are only throwing up to boost their résumés or to please their profs.  I’ve perused those types of sites, and believe me, they ain’t pretty.

The larger question: Is this good for college media? Of course, it is hard to argue against having more avenues for students to publish.  But will the lure of sites like CNI take away from the reporting that students could be doing for news outlets on their home campuses?  Or will CNI simply bring more students into the fold, giving them extra instruction and the “publishing high” that will lead them to contribute even more to outlets on and off campus?

Co-founder Robin Goodman, a communication studies professor at Alfred University:  “CNI will give college students worldwide an opportunity to compare and contrast their international colleagues’ coverage of all types of local and international news and features. Through this easy access, college students worldwide will be given the opportunity to interact among one another like never before . . . and remind college students of the importance of their work to the world community and will inspire them to always report at a professional level. After all, the world is listening.

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