The Koretzky Challenge: Can You Cover Your Campus Better Than a ‘Team of Old Farts’?

Ever the provocateur, college media maven Michael Koretzky is on a mission “to compel college journalists to take online seriously” — even if he has to embarrass them a bit along the way.

His immediate target: the University Press, the Florida Atlantic University student newspaper he has advised — officially, unofficially and around the clock — the past 16 years.

Koretkzy has started a new news site “for the express purpose of shaming the University Press into doing better with its own. How? Public humiliation. Because nothing else has worked. Not hand-holding, not cajoling, not even bribery.”

The outlet — slyly named Fautocratic — features what Koretzky calls “random acts of journalism against Florida Atlantic University.” Yet, a second tagline lays out its aim more clearly: “Covering FAU news until the UP does.” Yowza. Game on.


For example, the first two featured stories are spirited deep-dives into the tenures of a pair of FAU administrators — contextualizing, personalizing and poking-Daily-Show-style fun with words, images and embedded vids.

“Online can have verve and attitude, it can let links and curated video handle the exposition so you can get to the point, and it can use animation and images in ways print can’t,” Koretzky explained to me yesterday. “Yet, when you talk to college journalists about beefing up their website, you hear this in reply: ‘Yeah, I guess we could write a story. Maybe news, maybe feature, maybe opinion. Maybe run a photo…’ WTF?”

So his latest plan of attack is a mano-a-media challenge. Simply put, in his words, “I’ll cover FAU news more and faster by myself than the two dozen savvy students who run FAU’s news operation — and who grew up not knowing a time before the Internet, and who love to make fun of me for being old and growing up when pagers were all the rage.” (Personal note: I love that he links to an image of a pager.)

“[W]hen you talk to college journalists about beefing up their website, you hear this in reply: ‘Yeah, I guess we could write a story. Maybe news, maybe feature, maybe opinion. Maybe run a photo…’ WTF?”

1Is starting a competitive outlet to take on your own students and publicly calling out their faults all a bit too much or against the student press adviser’s omerta?

Koretzky — the beloved, occasionally-feared Simon Cowell of college media (with facial hair and a riding crop in place of the black T-shirt) — doesn’t abide by the “don’t hurt the children” philosophy.

As he shared with me, “Years ago, when stodgy advisers told me I was both too intense (“You’ll damage their fragile psyches!”) and too lenient (“You can’t let them do whatever they want!”), I worried about the future generations I was scarring. But it’s been 16 years now, and those students have grown into independent and tolerant adults. In this particular case, the students have responded — they’re working on their website right this very moment. Oh, and I stand by my assertion that there’s nothing more hypocritical in this world than a thin-skinned journalist.”

The point, according to Koretzky, is not to simply embarrass students. Instead, he wants to “dispatch a team of old farts to cover campuses better online than the students, just to embarrass them into action.” Embarrass them into action.

Now we’re talking. Why? Because the inaction within collegemediatopia when it comes to innovation and the online arena has been cringeworthy for years now.


Koretzky dissected the “shovelware” syndrome in 2010, calling out the student press in The Huffington Post for being bad at creating multimedia journalism. As he put it at the time, “Their print editions have verve. Their online editions have templates.”

I asked him yesterday if anything has changed in 2014 from his perspective. Short answer: Nope. His take: “Sadly, everything I wrote in The Huffington Post four years ago hasn’t changed one lick.”

So he’s giving the UP a public dressing-down, hoping they’ll step up and serve as the flashpoint of a larger “rebel to excel” campaign among the student set.

Up for the challenge?


College Media Hall of Fame, Class of 2011: Michael Koretzky, Educator and Journo Terrorist At-Large

Koretzky: ‘Why Your College Newspaper Matters’

2 Responses to “The Koretzky Challenge: Can You Cover Your Campus Better Than a ‘Team of Old Farts’?”
  1. Rolf says:

    Good luck to him, though I’m sure he’ll be successful. I know people working at the UP that want to make some of these very same changes but cannot many of the student staffers could not care about the paper at all, they care very little about writing things that matter and instead opt for 250 word puff pieces marked as movie reviews. Investigative journalism looks more like man-on-the-street interviews from late night TV, simply asking students where the fun parties are or how fun those parties may be! Their online presence is a joke and the current EIC treats it like Three Mile Island and wants little to do with it, despite the fact that all of the staffers have been raised in the era of always-on, always available news and media, meaning they should have a deep understanding of how important an online presence is.

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