Are Fewer Students Passionate About College Media?
In spring 2011, a standout young journalist and designer extraordinaire named Lauren Rabaino declared college media doomed. Bemused by her interactions with student journos at a press convention, Rabaino ranted about their lack of motivation toward digital innovation, their shortsighted staff recruiting efforts and their general cluelessness.
As she concluded her post, “If I was … at a college newspaper today, I’d quit. I’d start my own competitor news site on campus and leave the antiquated, curmudgeonly, long-established college media in the dust.”
Her words echoed in my head as I read a piece published last week by Alex Hall, the editor-in-chief of The Suffolk Journal at Boston’s Suffolk University. His op-ed takes Rabaino’s rant to the next level.
From what Hall has seen as a college media veteran, it’s not that a growing number of students are quitting. They are no longer signing up at all — leading to what he describes as a full-on “drought in passionate students.” Yikes.
The headline of Hall’s post: “Fewer Students Seem Passionate About College Media.”
“Being on the Journal staff for all of my 3.5 years at Suffolk, it is sad to say but I have seen the number of staff writers dwindle down each and every semester. This is not just an issue for the Journal but for all the Suffolk media clubs. From the Voice to Suffolk Free Radio, all the media clubs have seen a drought in passionate students that want to be involved and hold editor or manager positions.
“That does not mean that there are zero passionate CJN [communication & journalism] majors left around Beacon Hill. Every media group can point to its ‘go-to’ writers or DJs and that is great to see. The problem is those ‘go-getter’ types are becoming harder and harder to come by at Suffolk.
“There are about 180ish print and broadcast journalism majors currently enrolled at this university. The communication and journalism department has more students under its umbrella than the entire Sawyer Business School. Despite these numbers however, I cannot tell you how many classes I have had with fellow journalism majors and know quite a few who have never written for the Journal or the Voice. I just do not understand why those students choose not to get involved with either newspaper on campus.”
Is this drought a Suffolk-specific problem or a much larger crisis? And if the answer is the latter, what is holding an increasing amount of students back from being passionate about — and getting involved with — established college media?
Do student press outlets seem evermore “antiquated” and “curmudgeonly” as Rabaino claimed? Are students’ increased course loads, outside jobs, social media distractions or independent start-up tinkerings to blame? Is it a recruiting/branding failure connected to the outlets, their advisers or even professors in nearby journalism programs? Or is it maybe part of a student swing away from planned journalism careers, thus rendering college media experience meaningless in their eyes?
In her rundown of college media’s failings, Rabaino had three theories:
“1. College students are so oblivious because their professors are so far behind the times.
2. Students who work in college media don’t actually want to go into journalism post-graduation, so they couldn’t care less about the future of it.
3. Turnover rates are so high at college media that there’s simply not enough time for them to realize what the hell is going on.”
What do you think?