CMM Special Series: What Do Student Journalists Want to Learn More About Journalism? (Part 6)

During his recent efforts to help plan programming for the fall 2015 ACP/CMA National College Media Convention — the world’s largest annual gathering of student journalists and their advisers and profs — David Simpson wanted to hear more from the students themselves. Specifically, he was curious: In these changing times, what do potential student attendees want to get most from a journalism conference experience? So Simpson, a revered veteran journalist and director of student media at Georgia Southern University, reached out to me with his student-first query. I in turn reached out to the summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellows — an elite crew of current and recent student journalists.

For this CMM special series, 14 Fellows offer their perspectives, ideas and advice centered on a single question: What topic, tech tool, news beat, skill-set or current event would you love to learn more about, lead a session on or help debate during a journalism convention? Their answers run the gamut — touching on everything from science journalism and Snapchat to sexual assault coverage and workflow management.

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What Do Student Journalists Want to Learn More About Journalism?
Part 6: ‘An Independent Student Newspaper?’

By Kyle WalkerUniversity of Tulsa

Summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow

The title for my proposed convention session: “An Independent Student Newspaper?”

Here’s the pitch: The student newspaper at my university is not an independent organization. It receives a portion of its budget every year from the university. The rest it raises in ad revenue. By the time I graduated, I’d found two big reasons to wish the paper had looser ties to the school.

1) It would have been a better place to learn the trade and more intense as a proving ground. As long as the paper doesn’t become persona non grata with administrators, it can count on a budget. Though convenient, it also made us lazy about raising money. While that safety net meant we could involve more people in the paper, it also meant we were rarely if ever forced to do more with less. I would have learned more if that particular fire had been hotter.

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2) There would have been no question about the university’s ability to discipline our writers. Instead, I regularly had to ask myself what consequences I or the paper might face if I ran with a certain story. [Click on screenshot above for one example.] And there was no throwing the book at the school. Of course, this problem isn’t entirely mitigated by going independent. After all, writers and editors at independent student newspapers still regularly come under fire from their schools for doing their jobs. But in those cases, the metaphorical book is considerably thicker and arrives with a heftier whack.

There are two things I’d like to see from a session on this topic. First, the pros and cons. Second, how to get from here to there. Specifically, how do I transform an existing publication into an independent organization? Or how do I create a brand new one from scratch?

Kyle Walker is a recent graduate of the University of Tulsa, where he was editor-in-chief of The Collegian student newspaper. He is starting a graduate program at New York University in the fall. He is also a summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow.

Check out other parts of this CMM special series

Part 1: ‘The Interesting Important & the Important Interesting’ by Danielle Klein, University of Toronto

Part 2: ‘Best Practices, Pros, Cons & Even Some Mistakes’ by Emma Discher, Tulane University

Part 3: ‘Fresh Ideas & Fresh Blood’ by Sami Edge, University of Oregon

Part 4: ‘The Way We Edit & Upload Stories’ by Ali Swenson

Part 5: ‘So You Want to Make a Tabloid Newspaper?’ by Claire Dodson, University of Tennessee

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