‘Operation Ivy League’ Bust a Big Draw for Columbia’s Student Press

The recent drug bust at Columbia University known as “Operation Ivy League” has been a journalistic triumph and online traffic windfall for the school’s student news media.

Staffers at both The Columbia Spectator and Bwog– “the 24/7 blog incarnation” of the student news magazine Blue and White– have been covering OIL nonstop since reports first surfaced last week about “a curious police presence on [the school’s] frat row.”  The operation was “an undercover police sting that culminated in the arrest of five [Columbia] students from three fraternities accused of dealing cocaine, marijuana, LSD and Adderall on campus.”

A screenshot of the Bwog's first post on the bust.

A screenshot of a portion of a Spectator photo slideshow on "Operation Ivy League."

Bwog editor in chief Eliza Shapiro, a Columbia junior, especially leapt into action after an early morning tip about the student arrests.  As The Cutline, a Yahoo! news blog, reported, “She had planned on devoting her day to the 55 pages’ worth of essays due before the semester wraps up in another week.  Instead, she spent the next five hours holed up in her dorm room reporting, blogging, editing and managing a team of fellow Bwog journalists who had volunteered to help cover what was snowballing into a massive event.”

Since the event, traffic for the Bwog and Spectator sites have soared.  As Shapiro put it simply, “It’s the most-read stuff we’ve ever had.”  The outlets have also been breaking a number of “micro-scoops” in their continuing coverage.  And their stories have been linked and cited by numerous outside news media.

Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media professor and dean of student affairs at Columbia’s j-school: “For decades, student journalists on campuses all over the country have been front-line reporters on stories that draw national and international attention. New technologies have served to make the pace, scope and reach of such stories infinitely greater.”

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