’14 Student Newspaper National Championship: A College Media March Madness Bracket

Update: Sweet 16 Special: Editors Weigh In!

With the play-in games complete and the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament officially set to start, I have completed a purposefully quirky college media March Madness bracket. It is inspired by a tweeted suggestion I received last night from Cory Weinberg, the bespectacled editor-in-chief extraordinaire from The GW Hatchet.

His request: “[Y]ou should post a bracket where teams win based on quality of college paper.” The tweet was quickly favorited by what I assume are faux Twitter accounts Weinberg set up to publicly pat himself on the back.

But the idea fascinated me. So I briefly brainstormed and then filled out a bracket, replacing the schools with their campus newspapers. The five informal ground-rules I very quickly hatched and decided to follow:

1) Papers advanced mainly based on their current and recent editorial quality and spirit of innovation.

2) In tight match-ups (there were many), buzzer beaters such as Twitter follower totals, viral successes, ACP Pacemaker awards, CMA Pinnacle awards, a place on my Best Student Press Websites list and a recent positive spotlighting in a CMM post could all make a difference.

3) I purposefully made decisions fast, sometimes with a shrug, a smile and a shake of the head. I also had to ignore the absurdity of some fantastic papers’ absences (Indiana Daily Student, Red & Black, Daily Reveille, Diamondback, Daily Collegian, Daily Pennsylvanian, Daily Princetonian, Daily Californian, Collegiate Times & Yale Daily News, to name just a few).

4) I remained almost wholly positive — picking “winners” based on some papers’ successes, not others’ failures (with a few mostly lighthearted exceptions).

5) The selections centered solely on student newspaper awesomeness — not the relative seeds of the basketball teams.

So without further ado, here is my ridonkulously silly, pseudo student newspaper national championship. Click on the bracket screenshot below to see the full-sized version. Beneath that also check out a quick rundown of my Final Four selections and a hyperlinked highlight reel of some stories involving the papers that qualified and advanced. My big winner, by the way: the Emerald at the University of Oregon.

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Final Four Selections

1Emerald: The pub is coming off a huge reinvention success last year that earned it my vote for top college newspaper. A majority of its core staff remains intact, killing it in print and online under EIC and MVP Sam Stites and outgoing president Ryan Frank. The outlet had the biggest student press viral success of 2013, involving of all things snowballs. And Emerald staff are constantly pushing for greater education within college media, even at times when the lessons center on their own failings — for example laying out what they learned during their recent investigation into an unethical staffer (who was cut from the team).

2The Daily Tar Heel: I’ll let Ryan Frank, the head of the paper’s national championship “opponent” at Oregon, lay out some of the highlights of the DTH. In his words, “They are the dynasty of the industry. Just like the 49ers in the 1990s and the Yankees of the late 1990s. And they’ve done it on the news side, but also on the business side. I don’t know anyone who has been more successful at driving revenue on digital than the DTH. Their HeelsHousing site set the standard for housing search sites for college campuses before anyone knew what they were. [They’ve] been a leader in community journalism/engagement with a focus on intramural sports and the kvetch board. [The staff also] showed great leadership in their sexual assault coverage and aggregation.” And I also personally love the new website.

3The State Press: The Arizona State outlet has similarly been a leader as of late on both the business and editorial sides of college media 2.0. Since 2012, staff have been hard at work “re-inventing the college newspaper for the 21st century.” I also love their content — including SPM, their blogwork and the crazy-great (and always thoughtful) opinion section.

4The Daily Orange: In so many ways, the Orange is the student press gold standard. It operates a website that racks up awards like they are course credits. The paper’s editorial content is stellar and staff often go the extra mile with the publication of special guides and editions — including one this past fall commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing (“a tragedy in which 35 Syracuse students returning from semesters studying abroad died”).

Stories Involving the Tournament’s Student Media Teams

Daily Orange Sports Best Student Newspaper Website in U.S.
                         Daily Tar Heel Launches Historic Fight Against Sexual Assault
     Iowa State Daily Newsroom Evacuated Due to Poison Fears
                             Cavalier Daily Launches ‘Wherever, Whenever’ Publishing Plan
‘The Post is Dead, Long Live the Post’
                                       Ohio State Lantern Nabs ‘Secret Roommate’ Exclusive
       2012-2013 College Newspaper of the Year
Harvard Crimson Publishes Special Edition Covering Campus Bomb Scare
Can You Spot the Real Daily Bruin Front Page?
Pitt News Secret Society Investigation Reveals Its Own Editor as a Member
      After Censoring Itself to Protest Sex Mess, Daily Lobo Back in Print
Michigan Daily Grabs Football Scoop
State Press at ASU Going Digital-First, Shifting to Weekly Print Paper
O’Colly at OK State OKs Print-Digital-Mobile Makeover
     Emerald at Oregon Goes Viral with Snowball Fight
                 UCLA’s Daily Bruin Reverses Course, Decides to Run ‘Womyn’ Letter
Financial Troubles May Force American U. Student Paper to Go Online-Only
Daily Nebraskan Reinventing Next Fall
Photo of Bear Falling from Tree Crashes CU Independent Site
An Open Source, Backend Revolution at The Daily Bruin
            Strip Club Headline Causes Controversy at Oklahoma State
Kentucky Kernel Censorship Prompts Press Criticism, Twitter Protest
Badger Herald at UW-Madison Going Digital-First
Student Writer’s Confession: ‘I Took Acid & Went to Badger Football Game’
Hatchet Editor: ‘Don’t Adjust Your Set. Nothing Wrong with Your Newspaper’
Daily Texan’s ‘Hard Times’ a Microcosm of College Media at the Moment
     Arizona Editor: ‘For One Weekend, I Was Least Popular Person on Twitter’
Oklahoma Daily Pushes for Gender-Neutral Housing in Front-Page Editorial
‘Daily Tar Hell’ Disappears: NC State Student Paper Kills Spoof Issue
Anti-Romney Football Ad in Lantern Grabs Eyeballs, Press Attention
BYU’s Daily Universe Going from Daily to Weekly in Print
     NC State Editor Reflects on ‘Holy Grail of College Journalism Experience’
College Media Podcast: The Secret (Seemingly Desperate) Daily Texan Shuffle
Student Journalists at American U. Speak About Breast-Feeding Controversy
                    Oklahoma Daily Refuses to Use ‘Redskins’ in Future Stories
Letter Says Rape Culture a Myth, Blows Up Like ‘Hindenburg Over Jersey’
           UMass Daily Collegian Runs Advertisement Across Entire Front Page
50 Best Student Press Websites: 2013 Edition

Related

Full-Sized 2014 Student Newspaper National Championship Bracket

Journalism Professors: When Your Students Want to Cover March Madness, You Excuse Them From Class

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