CMM Special Series: What Do Student Journalists Want to Learn More About Journalism? (Part 12)

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 12: ‘Before Any Journalism Even Gets Done’

By Sean Feverston, Otterbein University

Summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow

There are many ethical challenges in the world of journalism, and this is no less true on the collegiate level. One example: staff conflicts.

Many large schools, particularly on Division I campuses, have enormous news outlets with huge budgets and tons of staff. By comparison, Otterbein360 and many outfits like ours sport small budgets and staffs hovering around 15 to 20 students. This may be fitting considering our overall student population is 3,000, but it comes with some real ethical questions before any journalism even gets done. For example, when staffing and recruitment rolls around, we are rarely in a position to refuse interested students who want to learn and work with us. Many of these students, though, enjoy multiple affiliations.

For us, this extra affiliation is often Greek. I am a chapter vice president of both my social fraternity and my honorary fraternity. Our current editorial staff has three Greeks and one non-Greek. The staff at-large is roughly a quarter to a third Greek. This is not a surprise though because the Otterbein student body is also roughly a quarter Greek. Does this overwhelming affiliation mean we can’t cover Greek issues without our journalistic integrity being called into question? In a related sense, our sports editor is a four-year member of the men’s baseball team — can we then not cover baseball as well?

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A recent screenshot of the Otterbein360.com homepage.

At Otterbein360, we strive to be seen and to operate in a professional light. Here is the question: Do college media get a pass on issues like the ones I mention above or does ethics dictate that we need to avoid them? We certainly don’t have any plans to quit any time soon — or quit reporting on Greek life — but it would be nice to be able to cover the full spectrum of campus news without leaving ourselves vulnerable to conflict-of-interest complaints.

All of this is by way of saying that I would absolutely love to see a workshop that can help us navigate these delicate ethical challenges. From a journalistic perspective, how can we enjoy our many extracurricular activities while also covering them objectively and being perceived by the public as uncorrupted by these affiliations? What kinds of things can I, as editor, tell my staff to help them preserve their own integrity? And what can they do to navigate around these ethical land-mines and still dig in and pull out great stories?

These are questions best answered by veteran faculty journalism advisers, student journalists and outside leaders such as Greek advisers and athletic coaches.

Sean Feverston is a senior public relations major at Otterbein University. He is editor-in-chief of Otterbein360.com. 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

Part 6: ‘An Independent Student Newspaper?’ by Kyle Walker, University of Tulsa

Part 7: ‘How to Present Data in the Most Compelling Way’ by Nizia Alam, University of Texas at Tyler

Part 8: ‘Student Media Consumption Habits’ by Matt Lemas, University of Southern California

Part 9: ‘How Can a Student Make It Different?’ by Nicole Brown, New York University

Part 10: ‘A Closer Look at Periscope’ by Angela Christaldi, Saint Joseph’s University

Part 11: ‘The Role of the Opinion Section’ by Griffin Guinta, University of Tampa

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