7 Standout Student Press Stories: ‘Wage Wars,’ Pet Loss, ‘Purdue Grandma’ & The Interview Issue

Over the past decade, digital tools and mobile platforms have rocketed journalism to a universe of innovation, interactivity and immediacy once unimaginable. Yet, without stellar content, journalism 2.0 is not worth the effort to read, watch, click on, scroll through, contribute to or connect with.
In that spirit, this semi-regular CMM rundown spotlights some of the most impressive, engaging and offbeat content recently produced by college media worldwide. Along with being worth a read, the stories are also potentially worth emulating or using as inspiration for awesome storytelling at your own school.

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(To nominate a student press news report, feature story, profile, op-ed, editorial, video or multimedia package for inclusion in a future spotlight, tweet me or email me ASAP.)

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REGULAR SERIES ALERT: “Cards Against Humanity: An Intern Experience,” Loyola Phoenix, Loyola University Chicago

LUC junior Tom Dyke is currently enjoying what seems like a very rad internship at the headquarters of Cards Against Humanity, the snarky, vulgar, fun, fun, fun card game that is all the rage among the young and hipster-ish. Loyola Phoenix staffer Erin Kelly focuses on Dyke’s internship ins-and-outs in a cool new feature that frankly doesn’t get replicated enough among student media nationwide. Students’ off-campus jobs and internship gigs deserve much more column inches and air time, especially when the work is fascinating or quirky.

For example, “Dyke said the 30 hours he puts in at Cards every week aren’t completely devoted to emails or setting up play tests. Playing Killer Queen, a 10-player strategy arcade game, eats up an hour or two every day. Dyke said his boss will often have all five interns play Killer Queen with her. They also play Slap .45, a game made by one of the creators of Cards.”

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DIGITAL JOURNALISM ALERT: “Secret keepers: Looking inside Brown’s online anonymous communities,” The Brown Daily Herald, Brown University

Brown Daily Herald staff writer Grace Yoon explores the diverse set of increasingly popular social media feeds, forums and pages devoted solely to chatting, gossiping and visualizing student life at Brown. Considering almost every school sports these digital and mobile communities — containing titles with buzzwords like confessions, crushes, memes and compliments — it’s a report worth emulating.

As Yoon writes:

“Anonymous online pages such as Brown Confessions are part of a growing trend among the Brown community and nationwide over the past couple of years. Many contributors choose these forums as places to divulge their innermost thoughts without facing the potential repercussions of expressing them in public. … And because the nature of each page is shaped by the content submitted and chosen for publication, moderators of these pages are faced with the challenge of creating a space that balances the freedom of expression with the safety and comfort of students.”

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“Why I’ve Decided to Become a Stripper” The Arbiter, Boise State University

With school fees and loan amounts mounting, a Boise State student is announcing via op-ed that she is planning to take up a new side-job. As she writes pseudonymously and sarcastically under her potential stripper name “Wild Rose”:

“Currently, I work three jobs to pay for nursing school. After watching my grades start to falter due to the amount of hours I spend working, and knowing I won’t receive the help I need once again from federal aid, I am pleased to announce that I am becoming a stripper to pay for college. … After a month or two as a stripper, I could make just as much as the full-time minimum wage employee makes in one year. Imagine how much I would make in one year. … Between dances, I can study for classes and maybe work on a few flashcards. I can continue to refresh my knowledge of anatomy because I will be working around other dancers dressed in work-appropriate attire.”

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SPECIAL ISSUE ALERT: The Interview Issue, The Yale Daily News, Yale University

1Earlier this month, the Weekend section team at the Yale Daily News unveiled its annual, always-fantastic Interview Issue. It features a series of candid Q&As with big thinkers, academics, politicos, artists and entrepreneurs with Yale connections and the talent and drive to genuinely leave an imprint on the universe.

From a chat with “Ukraine’s #1 pop star” to a tête-à-tête with a Tony-nominated playwright, the issue is a vibrant example of how to present longform (or at least medium-length) interviews that will keep reader attention and do right by the subjects.

The recipe for success, on spec: compelling people, powerful pics, bold but not blinding design, some enticing pull-quotes and questions that quickly get to current events and the heart of the individuals’ work and influence.

ANIMAL JOURNALISM ALERT: “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” The Utah Statesman, Utah State University 

1The concept is fascinating: an on-campus pet loss hotline. It’s being run out of USU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. A vet student helping with the hotline explains to Statesman staffer Mandy Morgan:

“Oftentimes, people don’t know who to talk to after the loss of their pet. Their interaction with their veterinarian has likely dwindled and much of society does not recognize that pet owners can experience significant amounts of grief upon losing a pet. … We all take turns taking the phone for the night and managing e-mails. When we take phone calls, we counsel pet owners who are grieving the loss of their pet. Sometimes they just need to express their feelings, sometimes they need advice or just to feel like their feelings of grief are valid.”

SPORTS JOURNALISM ALERT: “Wage Wars: A Look at the Wage Gap in Athletics,” University Press, Florida Atlantic University

1At the start of a new investigative feature, UP sports editor Josue Simplice immediately lays out an intriguing, all-too-common scenario in the collegiate sports world: “Two coaches have the same responsibilities, the same contracts, about the same level of coaching pedigree and are employed by the same school, but one coach makes almost twice as much as the other.”

Can you guess the gender of the individual making more? Simplice subsequently supplies a well-written rundown of the salary differentials among male and female sports coaches at FAU and beyond. At times, the amounts are negligible. At other times, they are extreme. And Simplice earns kudos for exploring the general workplace glass ceilings across the U.S. that have surely contributed to these on-the-court gender pay gaps.

PROFILE AWESOMENESS ALERT: “Purdue Grandma Brightens Students’ Days,” The Exponent, Purdue University

1According to Exponent assistant campus editor Alexa Kozyrski, Violet Coe, 82, has worked for roughly 18 years in the campus dining hall. She’s known to everyone as Grandma Vi.

Why? “She is called Grandma Vi because her student co-workers started calling her ‘Grandma’ during the beginning of her employment. They liked having someone they could have as a grandmother figure in their lives at school. They made her the ‘Grandma Vi’ name tag, and it has stuck ever since.”

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