NextGen Journal Gives College Students’ Spin on Global Events

Connor Toohill is attempting to break the college bubble.

Last fall, with the help of friends, Toohill launched NextGen Journal, a student-run news and commentary site, writ large. Its roughly 90 contributors are currently enrolled at colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada.

In terms of sheer geography, Toohill has arguably filled college media’s biggest niche. At the moment, NextGen may be the only true national college news outlet by students for students.

It covers matters of interest and importance to students outside the bubble of their own campuses — “from dorm life to Darfur, and from climate change to Kid Cudi.” Recent topics under investigation and discussion on the NextGen home page ranged from Libya, Net neutrality, and campus break-dancing clubs to college graduation rates, the deficit, and Rebecca Black.

“Up until now, campus media, especially in the opinion sense, has just been localized,” said Toohill, 19, a rising sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. “There’s nothing from our generation that is influential in the national sphere. We wanted to do something that can have influence nationally, that can bring our generation into the conversation.”

The “Osama Circus”

Amid the conversations — and celebrations — that have erupted in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s killing, NextGen has published more stories on more angles than any other student media outlet.

The site featured dispatches on student reactions at roughly two dozen schools — from West Point cadets running around in “crazy patriotic costumes and underwear” to Stanford University students who “roasted s’mores, drank beer (mostly the American variety), and chanted ‘U-S-A U-S-A!'”

It debated the merits of the country’s celebratory mood, including a Michigan State University student who decried the “Osama circus” atmosphere and a Tulane University student who separately described the national party as “perhaps the only time that I’ve felt proud to call myself a young college student.”

NextGen also reflected on the meaning of the terror kingpin’s death for current students who were in grade school when 9/11 occurred. It gauged the impact of the military strike on the 2012 presidential election. It ran a reminder op-ed that “terrorism does not die with Osama Bin Laden.” And it discussed the growing skepticism surrounding Pakistan’s alleged ignorance of Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Similar stories have been run throughout the professional press — but hardly any from the student perspective.

As Toohill said, “Our best pieces, our most popular pieces — whether it’s Egypt or the State of the Union or health care reform or the Super Bowl — really look at, what is the impact here for students? What is the significance for our generation? We’ve seen there is really a demand for that. Huffington Post College is sort of established as a section to cover what’s going on at college. Basically, what we’re saying is that college students deserve their own Huffington Post.”

To Read the Rest of the Piece, Check Out PBS MediaShift

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