15 Cool Things I Learned from Reading Every Last Word of College Media Review

During super-storm Sandy in late October, the editor-in-chief of The Pioneer at Long Island University Post updated the paper’s website via the Wi-Fi at a health club– after her car, part of her home, and electricity all fell prey to the ravaging squall.

That is one of the many facts, anecdotes, and general knowledge bits I gleaned from reading EVERY LAST WORD of the current issue of College Media Review, the only magazine focused solely and completely on the campus press– and the many people and publications comprising it.

My read EVERYTHING campaign is inspired by a similar quirky assignment New York Times Magazine staffers occasionally carry out and blog about.  Editors and reporters there gamely attempt to read every word– every last word– of a variety of magazine issues and then share what they learn from them with the world (wide web).  The cover-to-cover read-throughs have included editions of Psychology Today, House Beautiful, Sports Illustrated, Surfer Magazine, Vice, Vogue, and The Economist.

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While their efforts at times are superficial or sarcastic, the larger premise sports a serious, important lesson, in my eyes: Even the most niche publications possess a bunch of intellectual and entertaining goodies that might trigger ideas worthy of a story– or at least make you a smidgen smarter.  Quick plug alert: This assignment is one of many out-of-the-box exercises featured in my forthcoming book on brainstorming, uncovering, and reporting ridonkulously fantastic news and feature stories.  Book Title: Journalism of Ideas.

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So now, without further interruption, building off the first fun fact shared at the start of this post, here are 14 additional things I learned from reading EVERY LAST WORD of the winter 2012 issue of College Media Review.  (Kudos to CMR’s excellent editors Robert Bergland and Debra Landis.)

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2. After Hurricane Katrina shut down Tulane University during fall 2005, student staffers kept The Tulane Hullabaloo student newspaper alive– even while stationed at different schools.  For example, while attending the University of Pennsylvania, the paper’s EIC grabbed server space for the paper from generous editors at The Daily Pennsylvanian.  The staff called their efforts the “Tulane Hullabaloo Hurricane Plan.”

3. In the wake of Katrina, the Hullabaloo EIC created a “newspaper in a box” containing all equipment and instructions needed to run the paper from a remote location, in the event of another sudden, prolonged evacuation.

4. Just before the start of the school year in 2010, a flood divided Ames, Iowa, in half. Iowa State Daily staff were stranded on both sides, so they set up two bureaus to report the news from where they were.  Editorial adviser Mark Witherspoon: “It was probably one of the best training exercises we ever had.”

5. This past semester, a Drake University student wrote a blog post tutorial on transforming old T-shirts into tank tops– it’s apparently an eight-step process (partial screenshot below).  It went mini-viral, in large part due to a promo pic she put up on Pinterest.

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6. When turning “your old T’s into tanks” it’s best to select a shirt that is slightly big on you and cut a “neck hole” 1.5 inches below the collar (after already cutting off the ribbed part of the collar).

7. In 2008, less than 10 percent of student newspapers featured blogs on their sites, compared to 45 percent of daily professional papers (in 2007).  I am confident in saying the number of student press blogs has grown since then but, as college media leader and luminary Rachele Kanigel shares about recent ones she’s seen, “I was surprised they aren’t using blogs in a more creative way.  They are very much focused on the weekly deadline.”

8. Adaptive Path’s iWitness is an interesting online app, one of the new breed of real-time, location-specific social media trackers.  Its inventors dub it “a vehicle for discovering what’s happening in the world in cases where time and place really matter.”  (Mentioned in this CMR piece on election reporting.)

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9. Students are still reading their campus newspapers (dramatic pause) in print, according to some studies (and some previous CMM posts).  According to Lisa Lyon Payne at Virginia Wesleyan University, citing one research piece, “Some possible reasons for this phenomenon are the direct relevance of a college newspaper, the free price tag, and the notion that a college campus is one of the few remaining places with high pedestrian traffic and large amounts of leisure time.”

10. Five years ago, more than one third of the college newspapers in the U.S. did not have a website.

11. At least according to a 2011 study, WordPress is the most used content management system for top college news sites.

12. Belva Davis, the country’s first black female news anchor, had a TOUGH childhood.  Among other challenges, “she confronted prejudice in school.  She lived in projects.  She suffered from neglect and abuse. She describes a home ‘overstuffed with people but lacking in affection.’ . . . [S]he was [once] denied the right to practice for her high school bowling club at a local bowling alley because the proprietor told her, ‘We don’t let Negroes bowl here.'”

13. Last year’s editor-in-chief of The Miami Student at Ohio’s Miami University was also involved in the school’s Glee Club.  He “felt the student newspaper was not providing adequate coverage of the arts.”  So he started an Arts & Entertainment section.  It continues to run today.

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14. The Illinois College Campus Press Act is the strongest state law in the country protecting college journalists at school-supported outlets from administrative censorship.  One portion: “A collegiate media adviser must not be terminated, transferred, removed, otherwise disciplined, or retaliated against for refusing to suppress protected free expression rights of collegiate student journalists and of collegiate student editors.”  This portion of the Act was upheld in March by an Illinois U.S. District Court, which required Chicago State University to rehire and clear the personnel records of a former student newspaper adviser fired after the paper published controversial content.

15. Interestingly, “the placement of newsracks at a public college is a protected First Amendment act, and colleges can regulate distribution locations only if they act under established standards that prohibit picking-and-choosing among publications based on their editorial content.”  Choosing the color of those newsracks though is a different story…

Related

Yes, Students Still Read the Campus Paper in Print. I Repeat, Students Still Read the Campus Paper in Print…

Save the Racks!: University of Florida, Alligator Newspaper in Standoff Over Campus Newsstands

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