Wick Communications

Go back to school

In journalism on April 14, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I think I’ve touched on this before, and most of you already know this, but the campus newspaper is alive and well. That simple truth is perhaps the most heartening aspect of print journalism today.

Last week, the Washington Post carried a terrific story about one such newspaper – The Georgetown Hoya. The story focuses on the newspaper’s fits and starts toward independence and uses one big-news night to peer into the newsroom psyche. I highly recommend it.

The story points out anecdotal evidence that today’s highly literate, tech-savvy students are very interested in the print edition of their campus newspaper. Readership is up in many places. I have noticed the same thing as I’ve visited campus journalists in several states in recent years. And why is that?

  • The young journalists are part of the community they cover. They aren’t professional journalists writing about college students, they are college students communicating with their peers. They happen to know what their friends want to read. This is good news for those of us in the community newspaper business; we benefit from the same dynamic in our own communities. …
  • The newspaper is almost always free. As one source in Karen Houppert’s story says, “If someone hands you something for nothing, aren’t you going to at least look at it?”
  • It’s more portable than online media. I swear to you, that’s what the kids say. They are constantly online where Facebook is most likely to take their attention. But, when they are on the move across campus, it’s easy to pick up a free newspaper from a rack and take it along. They often say they have better things to do online.
  • Journalists at large, daily college newspapers are often very, very good. They are inquisitive readers themselves, they have grown up with the tools of social media, they often know more about still cameras and videos than their older colleagues.

Incidentally, one of the biggest challenges for college newspapers is that they too often depend on the people they cover for funding. This is a rotten deal all around, and I said as much in an opinion piece I wrote for my old college newspaper a while back. (The piece was prompted by the university’s attempt to sell the paper to Gannett!)

If you have any chance at all of stopping by and making friends with journalists at the local college you should do so. I can almost guarantee you will find it invigorating. You will get a line on possible new hires (and just as likely, get to know someone who may one day hire you) and you will feel better about the role of journalism going forward.

Here’s what Mariah Byrne, a freshman at Georgetown and a cub reporter for the Hoya, told Houppert when asked the media’s purpose:

“The proliferation of truth,” she quickly offers, seemingly confident that this goal is attainable. “To bring light to issues that need more attention, that’s what news’ main role is. Because the more people spread the word, the more people will recognize the problems — and the more chance there is for change.”

Clay

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