2013 College Media Year in Review: Top 5 Viral News Stories

This is part two of a quick series of posts providing a highlight and lowlight reel of the 2013 college media circus. More specifically, it is a review of the year’s most viral student press creations, performers and sideshows.

1. Sorority Segregation

In September, a special report in The Crimson White detailing eye-opening racial segregation within the University of Alabama Greek system caught fire on campus, online and in the press.

The CW story revealed that during the most recent rush period, advisers and alumni members of some UA sororities rejected otherwise qualified student recruits simply because of their skin color. Among those blocked: a black female student who sported “a 4.3 GPA in high school, was salutatorian of her graduating class and comes from a family with deep roots in local and state public service and a direct link to the University of Alabama.” According to the paper, her failure to be accepted was simply further proof Greek life is “still almost completely divided along racial lines.”

In a post for The Poynter Excellence Project, Kelly McBride rightly described the article by editors Abbey Crain and Matt Ford as “a remarkable piece of journalism.” As she wrote, “The impact was even more remarkable. Students and faculty protested. The college president, the governor and the U.S. Attorney General trained their sights on the rush process, and news media around the world took notice. The outcome: Several sororities reopened the rush process and invited four African-American women and two other women of color into their ranks.”

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2. Theater Interruptions

In early October, Adam Ganucheau, editor-in-chief of The Daily Mississippian at the University of Mississippi, reported that students — including some Ole Miss football players — were so disruptive during a campus staging of a play about gay bullying that some student actors were crying while they performed. Upon the story’s posting, the DM website crashed several times from the surge in traffic — racking up roughly a half million hits in its first few days online. National media followed up with stories of their own. And university officials offered public apologies for the behavior revealed at the story’s heart.

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3. Secret Roommate

In September, The Lantern student newspaper at Ohio State University published a so-kooky-it’s-true secret roommate exposé that quickly found fans in Buckeye country and beyond. According to the paper, a group of male students leasing a fixer-upper home near OSU were also unknowingly rooming with “some random guy” — in their basement.

4. Waffle House

In October, Indiana Daily Student staffer Jessica Contrera stitched together a soulful feature on the closing and demolishing of a Waffle House near Indiana University. Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch gave it extra virality with mentions in his “Media Circus” column and a tweet calling it both “mind-blowingly good” and “as good a feature as I’ve ever read from a college student.”

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5. Fake Girlfriend

Remember the enormous Deadspin scoop last January about the non-existence of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend? The story shocked the sports world, caught the media establishment flat-footed and in a few cases red-faced and cemented the term “catfish” into the modern lexicon. It also briefly rocketed a student journalist into the national spotlight. As Deadspin managing editor Tom Scocca tweeted, “Our guys — and let me be clear ‘our guys’ include a COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE — nailed it down in five days.” Jack Dickey was the “COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE” in that tweet. A senior English major at the time at Columbia University, Dickey worked nonstop on the story while finishing up his winter break at home in Connecticut.

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To read my full year in review on Poynter, click here or on the screenshot below.

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2013 College Media Year in Review: Top 5 Viral Videos

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