September 2: Five hundred fewer copies of The Diamondback student newspaper at the University of Maryland are being printed this semester, a move that the paper’s editor in chief attributes to the “declining advertisement revenues that relentlessly rattle the entire journalism industry.”
In an editorial published today, EIC Steven Overly writes, “I have had to begrudgingly accept the idea that our print readers will have fewer opportunities to gather the information I consider vital to the campus community.
In this print reduction’s wake, Overly promises a greater emphasis on online and multimedia content and continued improvement of the hard copy paper’s visual appeal. “[O]ur largest push will be to bolster the portion of The Diamondback that transcends both mediums: our content,” he writes. “As newspapers nationwide shrink in size, it’s more important than ever that remaining content is insightful and relevant. Through dogged reporting, we plan to not only uncover the news, but also highlight its impact on your daily life.”
September 1- The Progress is making progress in its free speech fight.
The student newspaper at Eastern Kentucky University celebrated a bit of a breakthrough in its efforts to obtain access to full versions of university police reports. Currently, university police deliver reports weekly and withhold key information, including arrestees’ addresses, claiming invasion of privacy concerns. According to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Kentucky Attorney General recently stated that such expunging was overly censorious and not in line with state law.
Questions remain about the impact of the AG’s legal analysis and the battle continues, but it is a step in the right direction for unfettered access to information the public and the press has a right to know.
Kudos to The Progress for standing up to the powers-that-be.
August 31- Indiana Daily Student staffers questioned their president today, and the kicker: He came to them.
Indiana University President Michael McRobbie visited the IDS newsroom and answered questions from editors. I just really like the precedent here. More university presidents should follow McRobbie’s lead. What do you think–once a semester or once every academic year?
August 30- The Corolla is on “the brink of extinction.”
According to a story in today’s Tuscaloosa News, the University of Alabama yearbook is simply not considered relevant enough to students to pay the $70 cover charge. (Only 344 students in a school of 25,500 bought one last year.) “It is in a precarious financial situation,” the university president said. “It’s safe for this year, but if students are telling us they don’t value it, we may have to look at other options.” Other schools have seen their yearbooks disappear, the Tuscaloosa News notes, including the University of Tennessee, Mississippi State University and Purdue University.
OK, so the trend is confirmed. In the age of Facebook and cell phone cameras, traditional yearbooks are like TV antennas, and Blockbuster Video: Cute for their quaintness but otherwise entirely outdated. And let’s be honest, they also tend to cost too darn much.
One of the students involved with The Corolla proclaimed in its defense: “It’s about making history.” My problem is not with the sentiment. Certainly, yearbooks have historical value. But you cannot expect students to want to pay big bucks for something whose presentation style, along with its content, is a thing of the past.
Are some yearbooks bucking the trend or thinking outside the box in terms of presentation? Let me know!
August 29: University News editors at St. Louis University in Missouri have weighed in via an editorial about the sad, intriguing, ongoing dispute between the newspaper’s former adviser and the university’s administration.
It is a complicated back-and-forth. The basics: Administrators have ordered longtime University News adviser, faculty member Avis Meyer, to stay out of the newsroom. According to a July St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, Meyer has no plans to back down, citing physical force might be necessary to keep him from entering the News base of operations. The fight seems to center on an administrative decision last spring to rewrite the paper’s charter. The administrators said it was to create a better newspaper. Some student journalists worried at the time it was an attempt to control content. So Meyer set up a nonprofit corporation using the names The University News and SLU just in case student editors wanted or needed to move off-campus to continue publishing. Students eventually decided to accept the school-mandated charter changes and Meyer disbanded the corporation. But the school filed a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit in October 2007 ensuring its registered names would not be used.
It has gotten nastier from there. Meyer even charges that his removal stems, at least in part, from the critical coverage the newspaper has given in the past to the administration and the university president specifically.
Now a new adviser is in place and administrators have become concerned Meyer’s sometimes-conflicting comments are creating tension and confusing student reporters and editors. In an e-mail to Meyer, the university provost wrote, “I will be forced to take actions to block your access to the newsroom.”
Wow. This is a tough situation, and one that undoubtedly runs deeper and is more complicated than what the press is reporting. For their part, University News editors stated in an editorial in their first issue: “We welcome Meyer to the newsroom. We value his wisdom and perspective. We relish his knowledge and connections. We enjoy his presence and camaraderie. We respect the time that he contributes and his editing skills. We are proud of his insight and fearlessness. . . . The administration might be able to keep Meyer from the newsroom while the paper is being produced, but they cannot keep his ever-present spirit from continuing to inspire us.”
August 27- Truly, what’s in a name? Would a student newspaper by any name be printed on ink just as sweet?
At Ashworth University in Georgia, the name of choice: The Chronicle. In an online contest, students selected Chronicle as the official moniker for the school’s first student paper set to debut this fall. The other two finalists: Post and Trumpet.
Regardless of the name, the real achievement is the founding of the paper itself, doubly impressive considering it grew from student interest expressed in online forums and will publish at a distance-learning university. As a press release announced, “Initially to be hosted on the University website, content will be peer-to-peer and include program and course reviews, student and faculty profiles, events and student organizations, as well student advocacy.”
Kudos to Ashworth for its efforts and best of luck to The Chronicle. It is already off to a strong start, even if it is in name only. Trumpet just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
August 26- Over the weekend, Northern Light student newspaper staffers at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) were locked out of their newsroom.
The cause was not a censorious administration or an angry reader stunt. It was due to a university policy, one that limits access to the school’s student union (where the newsroom is headquartered) once it is shut down, unless 24 hours notice is given.
As a Northern Light editorial explained, “This past weekend, The Northern Light slipped up and did not give notice until late on Friday and thus the permission for staff to access the office over the weekend was originally denied. . . . While we understand and take full responcibility [sic] for our mistake, it makes us wonder what would happen if things weren’t running as smoothly between TNL and the UAA administration.”
My opinion: Either the policy, or the newsroom’s location, should be changed–whatever will allow the staffers to have access to their outlets’ base of operations at any and all times. I understand extra costs and security concerns, but those should be secondary to the primary purpose for which the newsroom was provided for students in the first place: to produce news. News is now a 24-hour business. A newsroom is no good to students if they don’t have access to use it when they need it. And lessons on freedom of the press ring hollow when news can only be produced with 24 hours advance notice.
August 24- The newspaper is still less than a year old, but it is already making a difference.
The DU Beat, an independent student newspaper begun in December 2007 at Delhi University in India, has the school’s students and staffers talking with a range of innovative, in-your-face content. The most popular offering: “Ask Sex Amma,” a regular sex and health column. Another positive initiative: the paper’s “Dirty Loo contest” exposing especially unsavory school restroom facilities, leading to renovations.
The popularity of the eight-page weekly publishing 2,500 copies, only recently in color, is growing and its short-term impact can even be described as mouthwatering. According to the paper’s student editor, “Our stories get a good response. There was one story that I did on the unhygienic conditions in college canteens in Delhi University, complete with a photograph of a rat sitting on a plate in a canteen’s kitchen. That created a huge uproar and it landed me in a soup . . . the good thing however was, after that the conditions in the canteens have improved.”
In the editor’s words, the paper can be summed up as “self generated, non-opinionated and embodying freedom of expression.” Sounds like a good start to me.
August 22: A sex guide presented by the Pope. A photograph of half-naked women in a bathtub with tubas. A description of childbirth as “excruciating.”
These items are only a few examples of what caused an apparently drawn-out fight between the Speculum student newspaper and the controller of their purse-strings, the U@MQ student services organization, at Macquarie University Australia. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, U@MQ wanted more extreme or possibly offensive content to be toned down or labeled as satire. Speculum editors fought the restrictions and at the beginning of the month, resigned in protest. “Many don’t realise that in our former roles as editors of this mystery publication, collecting, editing and laying out articles was only half our job,” the final Speculum editorial noted. “The other half was fighting an endless tug-of-war with our kind benefactors.”
Check out the final issue at www.specnews.org, labeled “The issue U@MQ didn’t want you to see.”
August 20: In a recent interview, Peter Arrabal, incoming editor of The Minaret student newspaper at the University of Tampa, shared the secrets of the paper’s transformation from “PR tool” to “actual news” outlet.
A portion of the Q&A:
How did students receive The Minaret when you first joined the newspaper?
Arrabal: It really wasn’t picked up all that much. I mean, we probably printed 1,500-2,000 copies a week, and there would always be newspapers laying around. We didn’t write about anything people cared about. It was like we were like a PR tool for the school. We never had anything interesting; we just said, “Oh, this happened. That happened.” Event reviews, sports write-ups — there was nothing that made you want to pick up the newspaper.
How has that changed?
Arrabal: We shifted toward having people do actual news and having people on beats. We have a Facebook account, and we get all kinds of story ideas that come through that. That’s probably been one of our biggest tools for recruiting and getting people registered to our website, and getting story ideas and stuff. People screw around on Facebook all day, and they see our name on there, and we’re always adding people and putting out questions to people and grab sources through that. People send us messages like, “Hey, you should look into this.” It used to be we would just take a story and assign it to a reporter. Half the time they wouldn’t do anything with it. Now we’ve got an investigative team and all kinds of different ways to go after these stories. Now we have stuff people care about.
To read more, click here.
August 20: The modern student newspaper is both a “haven from the tempest” and “a wand to conduct some thunder.”
So says Washington City Paper at the start of an amusing, more-comprehensive-than-normal profile of six student newspapers in greater Washington D.C. One other portion worth sharing: “Real newspapers are losing readers by the minute, especially those labeled ‘college-aged.’ Yet amid the industry death march its farm system thrives. . . . [T]here’s still no better place for the misfit freshman yearning to be relevant and ‘make a difference.’ Take a closer look at those freshmen, and you see the character of journalism at its formative stage. You see future staffers of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or, if they prefer poverty, Washington City Paper.”
Aug. 19, 2008- The Matrix is not appearing right now at Macon State College in Georgia.
The ban is not on the Keanu Reeves movie (or its crappy sequels). The Matrix is the college’s student newspaper, shut down by administrators eager to create a media advisory board in the wake of tensions between student staffers and the publications coordinator that in May resulted in the resignation of the entire editorial board. In response to the newspaper shutdown, student journalists at the school who still want an avenue for newsy expression launched their own publication, aptly named The Student Free Press, a biweekly indy.
In the “About Us” section on the paper’s Web site, it reads, “Ever since Macon State College stopped printing its newspaper we could not take a passive role. We choose to be active with this issue. We believe in our First Amendment Rights. We believe that MSC students have a right to publish a College newspaper. We are actively seeking and negotiating a solution to our colleges choice to stop publishing. Please be aware and take an active role on issues at Macon State College. Stand up for what you believe. Get involved. Stand up. Speak out. Above all, do something positive.”
Aug. 19, 2008 – A Shakespeare-level drama is unfolding at Seattle Pacific University–minus an s.
About 10 years ago, SPU student Shakespear Farwythian was arrested for alleged sexual assault. He was suspended from school. The Falcon, the student newspaper, published a story about the incident. The charge was later dropped. The original Falcon story remains in the paper’s online archives.
Currently, it is that story, not the original assault allegation, which is making news. Farwythian wants the story removed from the paper’s Web site, saying the Google-able item has marred his reputation, both for its reporting on his arrest and its inclusion of a quote in which he compares the school to the Ku Klux Klan. SPU administrators agree, ordering the newspaper to remove the story. So far, the student journalists have held their ground and Shakeapear’s story remains.
What do you think? Are archival rules changing in our Google-alert age? And do administrators have the right to get involved in student newspaper content, new or old, online or in print? Here is a Seattle Times story on the situation.
August 18- Even the name just sounds cutting-edge: the Center for Media Innovation and Research.
The Center debuts this fall at the University of Florida, under the direction of veteran journalist David Carlson. And Carlson and administrators describe it using a different moniker: a media farm. “We won’t raise vegetables,” Carlson told a university PR publication. “We will be a farm for new forms of journalism and strategic communication. . . . We will germinate the seeds of future media and propagate innovative ways of disseminating news and information. Then we will nurse those tiny seedlings to maturity in the market of ideas.”
OK, so the metaphor becomes overextended but the foundation behind it seems to hold merit, including a 21st-century newsroom, a strategic communications laboratory, and a digital media-focused think thank.
It is not clear how this might exactly relate to college media endeavors but it holds promise as a place where staff workshops, editors’ retreats or annual seminars might happen.
If you build it…
August 18- Both high school and college educators in California who back student journalists’ free speech rights will hopefully soon have legal backing of their own to call upon when needed.
As the Student Press Law Center reported, Senate Bill 1370, originally dubbed the “Journalism Teachers’ Protection Act,” has passed the state Assembly and Senate. The governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will decide to sign it into law or veto.
“Under the legislation, a school employee could not be ‘dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred … solely for acting to protect a pupil engaged in’ constitutionally protected speech,” a Los Angeles Times op-ed explained, partially citing language from the bill. The op-ed later declared: “By providing a narrowly tailored protection for journalism advisors, SB 1370 will help the next generation of media professionals and their mentors, without threatening the educational mission of our schools. The governor should sign the bill.”
My Opinion: It is nice to read about the bill’s status as an about-to-become-law. It is simply a shame such a legal mandate is needed at all. Throughout my research on student journalism, I have come across too many instances of administrators suspending, firing or otherwise disciplining a publication adviser or a media outlet’s faculty overseer for work students have created. It is an action normally motivated by nothing more than PR. It is a superficial fix to what is usually a deeper problem. And it seems at times it is not a fix at all, but instead a blow to a person who has the most to offer and is the least to blame. And who knows, while this bill might truly help, maybe it too is nothing more than nice PR, a quick fix or none at all.
June 23- The Spectator, the student newspaper at Mississippi University for Women, will all but abandon newsprint for the World Wide Web beginning in the fall. When the semester starts, the paper will begin publishing online only. Staff will roll out print only for special occasions.
The reasons for the switch, according to faculty and administrators: making students more employable; accepting the reality of an online-centric media universe; dropping associated print publishing costs; and reaching a wider audience.
According to Barry Smith, the professor in charge of the related web-production course: “The print edition has had only a couple of thousand issues available in the Columbus area once per week. This is not convenient or accessible for alumni and potential students in other cities or states (or countries) who may want to receive this content. An online Spectator will be available around the world, all-day, every day.”
What do you think? Is the Spectator simply accepting the inevitable? Or is it watching the print pitch go by a bit too soon?