Meet the new Sagebrush, same as the old Sagebrush?

Though it hasn’t been mentioned online or in their newest print edition, the Nevada Sagebrush has undergone a pretty significant change in internal structure and external product this year under new Editor-in-Chief Ben Miller. And as someone who worked for the paper in the past, and got a sense of what Ben is planning on doing this semester during an interview, I figured that students and faculty would find the changes noteworthy.

1. So long, sports section

Though there were several issues last year that followed the same pattern, it appears that there will no longer be a separate & individual sports section distributed with the Sagebrush. Rather than a four to six page section, it looks like the Sports section will be assigned to the back few pages of the main A section. The move was made because of the extra cost in printing and distributing the extra section, Ben told me during that interview.

2. So long, Arts and Entertainment

The other significant external change is the elimination of the Arts & Entertainment editor position. Though I don’t want to speculate on the section’s closure, as the online version is still up, no posts have been made since June and no stories were produced in the new edition. From conversations with Ben, I think I can glean two reasons behind this decision – one, to eliminate an editor position saving thousands of dollars, and two, because the section has been quite barren and not very interesting in the past few years.

3. Hello, new online staff

One of the Sagebrush’s big initiatives this year is to expand their presence online, similar to the paths taken by my perennial favorite college paper The Oregon Daily Emerald. And looking at the organization’s contact page shows that split pretty well – essentially the positions of assistant editor has been replaced by online editor.

Verdict

Overall, I feel like the Sagebrush is moving in the right direction, while still staying grounded in their traditional product. On paper, it’s a great system. In reality, it’s a little worse than that. Just from my experience, I know plenty of advertisers and students are only interested in the sports section, and won’t be happy about it shrinking.

Additionally, cutting an entire section seems like a bad idea. There are plenty of great opportunities for lifestyle and culture writers to gain valuable experience - Roger Ebert got his start writing movie reviews in his college paper. College papers, much like alt-weeklies, are critical in covering non-traditional topics that appeal to a younger audience – I’d much rather read a movie or eatery review in the Sagebrush than I would in the Reno Gazette-Journal because I relate closer to the Sagebrush. Rather, reducing the salary of an Arts and Entertainment Editor or splitting the duties with an Opinion Editor would work out much better.

And in regards to the focus online, I think it can work – if the work is put in. So far, only a handful of new stories have appeared on the website a day after publication, and I can find articles all the way from April on the front page. Blogs are out of date, the contact sheet was only updated a day or two before school started – for a news organization focusing on online, they really aren’t doing much of that. Part of it is adjusting back to school, but it will be interesting to see how successful this shift will be. In my three years at Nevada, I’ve seen the Sagebrush shift from a 20-odd person, beefy news outlet that competed for national awards, to one that was barely scraping along at the end of last year. It’s a critical time to be a member of the Nevada Sagebrush – let’s see if they step it up.

Internship Log: Getting Beyond the Who, What, When and Where and Getting to the Why

So I’ve been a naughty blogger the past month. I have plenty of excuses (moving into a new place, hectic work schedules, no money and having less time off) but at the end of the day, I’m not helping anyone by neglecting this blog. I’ve seen tons of blogs that began with regular posts, then petered out and were eventually abandoned. I don’t want that to happen with this blog. I’ve learned a ton about my writing voice just by blogging on a regular basis. It’s been incredibly refreshing to get away from what media critic Jay Rosen calls the “Voice from Nowhere”: essentially the journalistic cult that worships impartiality to a fault. While I’m not arguing that professionally-trained journalists are unnecessary (because that means I’ve made a huge mistake), I’ve caught myself identifying and at least attempting to stop my own bad journalistic habits.

As an intern, it can be a challenge to derive a greater meaning to a story because many of the stories that I’ve worked on in the past few weeks are either one-day stories, quick website updates or event coverage. More often than not, I only have enough time to work on the who, what, when and where, when I’m more interested in the why. Like I said before, it’s not like this a startling revelation to me – I didn’t expect to be thrust into into a kind of hardcore, Woodward-and-Bernstein-type reporting my first week on the job.

But I will admit that it can be difficult to go under the surface and really dig for a unique spin day after day, week after week. Sometimes it works out, like a story I wrote about the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Rather than do a typical, by-the-numbers event coverage, I tried to tie the event’s historical background of celebrating the end of slavery to a connection between the holiday and racism in Nevada, and it turned out ok. But for every story that tries to find a deeper meaning, I’ll end up with another story like this one, with little analysis and kind of boring.

It’s maddening to know that I possess the capacity to write at a level above boring event coverage, but seem to find myself falling back into those bad habits again and again. To be honest, the layover between quitting the Sagebrush and beginning this internship probably ‘softened’ me up a little bit in regards to producing lots of content in a short amount of time. But as the weeks go on, and I settle more into a rhythm of reporting and writing, I believe that I’ll create and find better stories. After all, it’s easy to make excuses (especially for not updating a blog), but none of that really matters. What matters are the results.

Internship Log: My 12-hour first day at the RGJ

What a goddamn first day. After arriving about half an hour early to the RGJ office, I was forced to play around with Twitter for about an hour until I was given a desk and a story to report. The story is a good one, dealing with a Southwest Reno neighborhood’s opposition to an opening youth drug rehabilitation center culminating in a protest yesterday and a meeting at Reno City Hall today. It felt nice to actually report again, rather than to regurgitate whatever scientific conference or mildly boring research awards the University deemed fit to show off. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed working at Media Relations very much, but there’s such a fundamental difference in the way a newsroom operates and a public relations firm operates. There is much more of a sense of urgency, a need to get all relevant sides and angles of a story right now, rather than in a week or two.

This difference was highlighted especially by the breaking news of a fire in Douglas County. Engrossed in my reporting, I ignored the escalating pace of the newsroom along with the sound of more and more phones ringing. Finally, an editor came over to my desk and essentially told me to drop whatever I was doing, and to figure out a way to Topaz Ranch Estates. To the fire. As I began packing my supplies and writing down directions, Brian Duggan turned around and said, “Welcome to the RGJ.”

The drive from the Gazette-Journal’s offices to the site of the fire takes about an hour and a half, give or take the traffic going through Carson City, Minden and any other small towns along the way. Though I attempted to drive with at least some regard to the speed limit, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my body. It was the same feeling I had driving up to Galena High School during the Washoe Drive fire, and the same feeling driving through South Reno to get a closer look at the Caughlin Ranch Fire. Getting out of Carson City was the first time I saw the smoke from the blaze. From there, I would alternate between driving a handful of miles, stopping on the side of the road, jumping out to take a picture with my smartphone and then sending them out through email to the RGJ and on my personal Twitter account. When I arrived at the turn-off for Topaz Ranch, about 2 miles from the evacuation center, I finally got a good look at the inferno. It engulfed half the sky.

I spent about two hours at the community center, interviewing evacuees, taking more pictures of the fire, then slowly typing them out through my phone and emailing them back to the RGJ. All in all, I took about 15 pictures and found three good interviews during my time in Topaz Ranch, some of which were immediately posted to the RGJ site. Overall, I spent nearly 12 hours working, reporting and driving today, published photos and interviewed evacuees — all on my first day. Today, I’ll be focusing on the protest story as well as juggling whatever the news editors throw my way. What a goddamn first day. There’s nothing else I would rather do.

Future of College Media: Fixing the Divide Between College Students and College Newspapers

This post is the ninth in a series of 10 about the future of collegiate journalism, focusing on specific projects undertaken by members of college journalists around the country. This post goes over how to retain a collegiate audience and how to keep their respect.

Image courtesy of pressthink.org

There’s a of trust between media outlets and their audiences. Polling data clearly shows that since the 1970′s, the public has continued in greater numbers to believe that most stories are inaccurate, favorable to one political side and are highly influenced by other organizations and people. Questions over why the decline happened and potential solutions to this quandary have been discussed in great detail by media critics such like Jay Rosen and Poynter’s Craig Silverman (They also engaged in a live chat about the topic). While Rosen comes up with a list of possible reasons for the lack of trust, Silverman focuses on one issue: the lack of a connection between journalistic entities and regular readers; it’s no longer ‘our newspaper,’ but ‘the newspaper.’

Though there isn’t any polling data regarding the trust between college newspapers and their readers, it’s apparent that there should be a stronger connection between college newspapers and their readers. For one, the writers and editors of a college papers are on average more similar demographically (18-24-year-old college students) to their readers than regular professional newspapers, which grab a wide variety of people from different ages and places to cover a single area. Additionally, the ratio of writer-to-audience number is usually much better for college newspapers, even those with a smaller staff, so ideally one should be able to relate to and connect with a wider percentage of the audience. Because college papers are so much closer to students, shouldn’t they enjoy a great amount of respect and trust from their audience?

It lack’s not often the case. While it’d be easy to bring up the numerous complaints people have brought against the Nevada Sagebrush this past semester, it’s an issue that spreads far beyond the University of Nevada campus. One recent example came when The Appalachian Online (the student newspaper of Appalachian State University) incorrectly tweeted that a popular Mexican restaurant was closing, and corrected itself after outcry from students. The resulting editorial made the mistake of essentially telling readers that readers should care more about other issues, leading to angry commenters railing against what they perceived to be the paper’s faulty values and apparent lack of respect for their readers.

The story (which was picked up by Jim Romenesko and PR Daily) is a classic example of the divide that can easily exist and be perpetuated by college newspapers and their respective audiences. Although it’s important for college papers to remain completely separate and independent of non-journalistic influences, papers cannot survive if they promote hostility with their readers. So what’s the solution? Here’s a list of four things college papers can do to improve relations with their readers:

  1. Creating a social media community: The comments section on any news website, especially local news affiliates, are usually filled with either attacks on journalists or straight political propaganda; the antithesis of a community. Social media is different, especially on Facebook, as more people are comfortable with commenting and writing through the familiar Facebook system than through a cumbersome commenting program. Thus, it’s incredibly important for journalists to be on top of their social media, and to put time aside to address concerns and speak to audience members. Even if it’s just joking around, like David Weigel does often on his twitter feed, it’s a way to form an instant connection to readers and to let them know that you are human too.
  2. Connections around campus: This is an extremely fine line to tread, but it’s important to have a wide variety of different groups represented on a college newspaper staff. It’s extremely easy to form an ‘us v. them’ mentality when one spends all of their time in the company of fellow staff members. Branch out, join other clubs and organizations (and Greek life!) to avoid the echo chamber of a college newsroom.
  3. Be active in the community: The best way to advertise a college paper is to be an active member of the college community. It’s one thing to publish a story about a campus event- it’s another thing entirely to go out and actually participate. Putting faces to a masthead is important if a college paper needs to combat negative stereotypes and false beliefs.
  4. Own up to mistakes, and move on: If you make a mistake, address it, apologize and move on. Dwelling on something that went wrong will automatically make you appear less professional, and distracts from more important work and stories that need to be dealt with. As Nicole Dion writes in a blog post about dealing with social media crisises, “Don’t justify your actions, just apologize. Explain the situation, if necessary, and nip the talk in the bud. If you don’t say anything, people will assume the worst and it will become even bigger than it already is.”

Future of College Media: How to make editorials matter

This post is the eighth in a series of 10 about the future of collegiate journalism, focusing on specific projects undertaken by members of college journalists around the country. This post details the role and value of editorials by collegiate newspapers.

Last month, the Sioux City Journal did something a little out of the ordinary for their front page; they published a full-page anti-bullying editorial after the suicide of a 14-year-old high school boy who was teased for coming out as a homosexual. The resulting paper is immediately attention-grabbing and also a great introduction into the role of newspapers and editorials. In a piece published by Charles Apple, the paper’s editor Mitch Pugh is quoted as saying, “We believe that as a community news organization one of our critical responsibilities is to serve as a strong advocate for the well-being of our community. This page underscores that belief.” The Journal is not the only paper to take this route; in years past, papers as diverse as The Detroit Free Press, The Arizona Republic and the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

While newspapers do have a critical role in any modern community, the continual debate over how much influence should be extended to a journalistic body shows no signs of stopping (especially with public trust in journalists falling every year). Although there is a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, media outlets such as Gawker say, “…institutional editorial writing is a worthless anachronism in this modern media age.” It’s needless to say the effectiveness and purpose of editorials has, at least in the eyes of new media outlets such as Gawker, diminished greatly in the past few years.

So where does that leave collegiate newspapers? Most collegiate newspapers publish a staff editorial every week, covering and commenting about on-campus news and events, such as student government elections and other contentious issues. The editorial board has long been a mainstay of college newspapers, especially the Nevada Sagebrush, which famously made the decision in the 1960′s to publish a blank issue after an Editor-in-Chief was removed by the student government. This year’s staff continued with that tradition of pushing editorial content to the forefront by embarking in a six-part series called “ASUN Future,” designed to point out problems with the University’s student government and offer solutions on how to fix them.

It’s a noble goal, and has merit as ASUN isn’t anyone’s idea of an efficient organization. I won’t comment on the ideas suggested in the columns, but I do wonder about the effectiveness of the series. A series which begins it’s first column with, “The Nevada Sagebrush believes there is a big problem lurking on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union,” is immediately taking a hostile position toward the current ASUN government, which leads to an instant tension between the people capable of making the change and the newspaper calling for change.

This isn’t the first time the Sagebrush has attempted to engage in public journalism; in 2008, Sagebrush editors Michael Higdon, Brian Duggan and Jessica Fryman published a ‘public-interest’ issue in response to the then-recent kidnapping of Brianna Denison. The issue contained a lengthy main article, guides to proactive protection and an editorial calling for a more active campus community. Much like the ASUN Future series, these Sagebrush members identified a problem on campus, but rather than publish numerous front-page columns, they actually did investigative and journalistic work. As then-Design Editor Michael Higdon said in a message to Charles Apple, “…We executed our main goal: to give students the tools of the press by providing them with information and access to officials they can deliberately use in order to make a difference by asking questions and offering solutions.”

That’s a lot different than just coming out and identifying a problem. Higdon understood that while members of the paper may have decent ideas about campus safety, change must come from public fervor and pressure, not columns in the paper. It’s a completely different mindset, in a way utilizing many different aspects of the paper to identify areas needing change, and attempting to engage students. Despite good intent, the ASUN Future series seemingly quickly delved into Ben Miller’s ideas of how to fix ASUN, rather than a combined effort with a strong emphasis on student engagement. Rather than only publish opinion articles, why not actually go through and write a handful of stories and guides to understanding ASUN? That way, students who aren’t as well versed in the operation of ASUN have an opportunity to understand the situation more clearly and to identify problem areas themselves.

For editorials to work in a modern media environment, they have to either come as part of a public-journalism package (as described by Higdon) or attract as much attention as the Sioux City Journal. While collegiate newspapers are often bastions of charged and controversial opinions, just writing about a subject usually won’t be enough to change anything prominent. If done in a more efficient manner, however, editorials can be extremely effective ways to hold public and private figures accountable.

Future of College Media: What makes a good college website work?

This post is the seventh in a series of 10 about the future of collegiate journalism, focusing on specific projects undertaken by members of college journalists around the country. This post covers the value of having a good website for a college media site, and lists some examples.

Screenshot of the Berkeley Beacon website on May 17, 2012

The importance of having a well-designed and user-friendly website should be an upmost priority for collegiate journalists, because as the future of journalism begins to shift online, college papers should be on the front lines of change. Although college students on average prefer a print college newspaper to an online one, online stories and content are important for people who don’t have access to a print edition. It’s also a good playground to experiment and show off digital talents to future employers. For this post, I’m going to list a handful of well-designed collegiate newspaper websites, then analyze what traits make them successful.

  • The Chronicle (Duke University)

While I haven’t posted too much about The Chronicle’s content, I do find their website intriguing. As with most other papers, they use a rotator near the top of the page to showcase stories from all different sections of their coverage. There’s no real integration with their social media outlets, other than links to the normal social media sites. The site also utilizes the same design motif used by the New York Times, in terms of the columnized way of showing off content. However, there’s a few oddities, including the weird spacing present between stories, and I dislike the grey color scheme.

  • Oregon Daily Emerald (University of Oregon)

I’ve written hundreds of words about my admiration for the Emerald, and their website is no different. While it uses the same columnized style as the The Chronicle, it’s spaced more evenly and feels much more news-y. There’s no rotator, so content has to be updated frequently to avoid staleness. Unlike most websites, the Emerald does not have a ‘recent comment’ or ‘most read’ section on their front page, which I actually support. Links to those kind of stories actually work best when presented next to an individual story, to encourage the reader to continue reading. Having it on the front page is too personal and blog-like, and distracts from the professional attitude a college paper should take.

  • The Red and Black (University of Georgia)

Although its not breaking any new ground, the Red and Black’s website is solidly built and executed well. They have a rotator, and have a slightly smaller columnized story format, with pictures included for almost all the stories. Generally, it’s a very traditionally designed site, down to the promotion of email updates at the very top of the page. There’s a few links to social media sites, including a large Facebook link, but it’s generally downplayed in favor of the stories. Overall, it’s a well-designed site, but The Red and Black won’t fool anyone into believing it’s a professional news site; its still very collegiate.

  • The Berkeley Beacon (Emerson College)

Unlike the other organizations on this list, the Berkeley Beacon is not a daily, and its staff isn’t huge. It’s more indicative of a ‘normal’ college paper, which means it has a small staff, low pay and comes out once a week. Which makes its website more amazing. According to this Nieman Journalism Lab article, the Beacon’s website is based upon the extremely popular Boston Globe site. Although they do not produce as much as content as other, daily college papers, the Beacon has one of the most unique web designs of any college newspaper I’ve seen. There’s a ton of white space, and the design is very simple, echoing the lines and design of a print newspaper without any traditional drop down menus or other ordinary website aspects.

So what makes those websites successful? Here’s a list:

  1. Social Media Presence: As I’ve written before, social media can be a great resource for college newspapers if done right. Just with this blog alone, nearly half of my views have come from social media sites, so I know firsthand the help it can provide to a website. But one also needs to make sure their social media is fairly represented on their site as well, and not just regulated to a small link on the side. Content posted on Facebook should be easily accesible through a website, and vice-versa.
  2. Don’t be something you’re not: As tempting as it can be to deck out a website with tons of cool features, the examples of the Berkeley Beacon (and The Daily Californian) simplicity is the future for web design. It’s much easier to find stories in these kind of designs, and it isn’t offensive to look at as well. The intelligent uses of white space and simplistic color schemes draw direct connections to reading an actual newspaper.
  3. Think of the readers: When posting something, remember to think, “How would the average reader look at our front page, and what do they want to see?” Generally, readers like new and updated content, stories they can either relate to or find important and ease of access; all of which are important anyways for collegiate journalists.
  4. Online is a medium, not a copy: Many collegiate websites, especially those that publish on a weekly basis, are centered around publishing a ton of stories once a week reposted from the print edition, and leaving it alone. As detailed in this excellent College Media Matters Post, collegiate news websites have a plethora of options available online, and yet usually choose to use their site as mainly a reposting site for print-edition articles. Breaking this trap is one of the essential steps in changing collegiate websites into actually viable mediums for journalism, rather than a place to only post print edition stories.

KOLO does its best FOX News impression

Update: The RGJ is reporting that KOLO has apologized for the segment, saying there was no intent to offend but only a writer trying to be clever.

Reno broadcast channel KOLO is getting some national heat today when a promo inferring gay marriage to be a ‘sin’ was released on Youtube today. In the video, anchor Sarah Johns says, “Historically, Nevada has made a living off of sin: quickie divorces, prostitution, gambling. What’s one more sin added to the list if it will improve our economy?”

While I’m sure that the people at KOLO are most likely not raging homophobes, this kind of work makes them appear so, especially when it appears in the RGJ and ThinkProgress. Especially with a topic as attention-grabbing as gay marriage, it’s more important than ever to not appear biased in coverage. Readers don’t remember fair coverage, but they sure as hell remember incorrect or biased reporting.

How the Sagebrush graphic of the ASUN budget ended up more confusing than the actual budget

Although I’ve never claimed to be a graphic design expert, I do believe that I have the ability to tell a good infographic from a bad one. And man, last week’s Nevada Sagebrush graphic on the proposed ASUN budget was not good at all. Here’s what it looked like (page link is here).

Image courtesy of The Nevada Sagebrush

Where to begin?

  • What am I looking at?: This graphic looks like it’s been pulled out of a high school chemistry book. In addition to no visual elements beyond basic geometric shapes, the graph just looks boring. Same-ish text types, no eye-catching colors or images and way too much white space. This is not visually appealing at all.
  • What does it mean?: It took me a few minutes to figure out what exactly was going on. Apparently, the vertical axis represents the change in dollar amount from the last year, while the horizontal axis shows the percent change from the past year. The bubbles are the largest changes in the budget (but the Budget and Finance and Student Activities Center don’t have one??) with the size of the bubble representing the portion of the total budget. So that’s three different pieces of information all crammed into one smallish space. It’s confusing as hell, and isn’t very self-explanatory; hallmarks of any good infographic. (Also, bubble charts suck. Read this)
  • Explanation: Ok, so after studying this graphic for about 10 minutes, I think I understand the information conveyed within. But what the hell does it mean? Why was more money given to Campus Escort? Why did the Budget and Finance section lose so much money? What is the ASUN Student Activities Center? What’s the actual dollar amount in the budget for 2013? What does all of the other money go towards? Graphics such as these can work as long as they’re accompanied by an explanatory text element, but what you see is all you get. I could easily get more information faster and easier from the actual pdf submission of the budget than from this graph.

This isn’t the first time the Sagebrush has goofed on a graphic, and while this graph doesn’t appear to misinform, its structure and layout is confusing as hell. Graphic design is an incredibly important part of newspaper production, as interesting and informative infographics and design can help a story come alive and look better than just words on a paper. But it needs to be done well for that to happen, and unfortunately the Sagebrush missed an opportunity to tell a pretty decent ASUN budget story here. Instead, we get this graphic, and are forced to either look through the official documents themselves or just ignore the issue entirely. It’s a failure to report and a failure to tell a story that needs to be told accurately and clearly.

Future of College Media: Can pay walls work in for a college paper?

This post is the fifth in a series of 10 about the future of collegiate journalism, focusing on specific projects undertaken by members of college journalists around the country. This post focuses on the expectations and role of pay walls for a collegiate paper.

Image courtesy of besttechie.net

It seems as though the age of pay walls for news sites is among us. The New York Times has kept their site under a pay wall for more than a year while Gannett, the countries largest newspaper publisher, announced in February a wide-spread pay wall implementation for all of their 80-plus newspapers around the country, including the Reno Gazette-Journal (which began last week.) Though it’s much too early what kind of role, if any, pay walls will play in the future of news, one college newspaper is fully embracing and running with the idea of a pay wall, to both the approval and dismay of others.

Oklahoma State’s Daily O’Collegian implemented potentially the first pay wall for a collegiate newspaper nearly a year ago, and growth has been steady ever since, according to this MediaShift article. Charging $10 for unlimited access to the website, the Daily O’Collegian gained about 175 subscribers, exceeding expectations and prompting the paper to raise the price to $15 a year. Response to the paper’s decision has been mixed (much like the discussion on pay walls in general), with College Media Matters blogger Dan Reimold seeing the decision as blocking student access and unlikely to work widespread, while Alexa Capeloto from MediaShift claiming the move as visionary and as a way to train journalists and consumers that news won’t always be free.

Though it may seem logical to rely on the ‘regular’ arguments for pay walls, it’s incredibly important to remember the vast differences between collegiate and professional press. For one, collegiate papers admittedly offer less of a total package than regular newspapers, with smaller budgets, staff and resources to go around. Unlike the readership for professional papers, collegiate readership is extremely temperamental, with only college-aged readers and a few alumni to consume and react to the product. Additionally, as Reimold points out, most collegiate websites are just reposted articles from the print edition, with few if any online content. Why would a student pay for content they can get for free in the print edition?

So if the collegiate audience is much more different than a professional one, how can pay walls work? Simple; be really freaking big. Papers such as the Daily Tar Heel (UNC), Daily Emerald (U of Oregon) and the Daily O’Collegian are more likely to have success with pay walls because they employ huge numbers of people and run essentially a regular daily newspaper. Such papers usually have wealthy or influential alumni and donors who can draw attention to the paper, like Roger Ebert did for his collegiate paper,  The Daily Illini, in February. As Clay Shirky writes in this blog post, pay wall readers are a special breed of consumers that have an active desire to support institutions, such as a college newspaper.

But most college papers aren’t like that at all. Most have a few overworked staff members, putting out a few pages per week and occasionally updating their website. Smaller papers (I’ll include the Nevada Sagebrush on that list) cannot use pay walls because the content they provide isn’t worth paying for in the eyes of readers. Unless a paper is offering daily, interesting and relevant content, I don’t see how a pay wall can work for the vast majority of college papers. Rather than focus on the likelihood of a pay wall working, college papers should focus on making their website something students would be willing to pay for. One cannot have poor content and expect to be paid for the privilege of seeing it.

Examples such as The Daily Collegian will most likely turn out to be exemptions to the rule, as financially-pinched collegiate papers attempt to find other ways to stay in business. Pay walls aren’t the way.

Future of College Media: Inspiring reads and excellent blogs

I’m about half way through my series exploring the different trends and problems facing collegiate newspapers and media, and I figured it’d be pertinent to post some of the articles and websites that I’ve been using for inspiration and supplemental information. If you want to read the series thus far, click here.

This blog is my bible. Run by Dan Reimold, College Media Matters covers rising trends, interesting or controversial going-ons and story ideas in the collegiate media world. Reimold updates about once a day, and his posts are explicit in detail and usually contain some excellent analysis. For the day-to-day happenings in the world of college news and reporting, College Media Matters is one of the best resources available.

I’m not going to lie; this Colombia Journalism Review article is extremely long, and incredibly thorough. While it doesn’t specifically address the specific issues regarding the future of collegiate journalism, it does cover in great detail the issues facing modern journalism, and the steps professional journalists are taking to avoid a systematic collapse. Especially relevant is the section on a university’s role in the process, including publishing student work and the large number of journalism centers calling higher education institutions home.

During my enrollment in David Ryfe’s Future of Journalism class over winter break, I had a sudden epiphany regarding the problems facing modern journalism, and the difficulty in solving them. Although the writings and ideas of Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen were promoted heavily throughout the class, I always held to a lingering doubt in the back of my mine regarding these academic’s view of the future of news. Then I read Starkman’s essay. Although I was careful to avoid sympathizing too much with a viewpoint obviously favorable to the kind of hard-hitting print journalism I enjoy and promote, his arguments won me over. Though it’s not the best piece for a beginning reader to start with, Starkman’s essay is a thoughtful and needed reaction to the kind of ‘accepted’ future of news promoted by people such as Shirky and Jarvis.

Though it’s not entirely devoted to collegiate news, Romenesko (a former writer for Poynter) is one of the best media bloggers out there, which more often than not contains the actions of a collegiate outlet. Romenesko also has a bit of a larger audience than College Media Matters, so his blog post about a college paper naming a rape victim creates more of a conversation amid his audience than a similar post would have on CMM. Still, Romensko’s commentary is usually on-point and logical, and his blog is a great source of media news.

As hard as it is to admit, journalism schools play a large role in the development and training of young journalists. While it’s nice to have an active and viable student press, journalism schools need to be there from the beginning to help train young journalists and co-develop a future for the business. Faculty at these schools have a responsibility to advocate for their profession, taking the form of mentoring student journalists, starting local journalistic partnerships and more. Teaching the inverted pyramid style won’t cut it anymore.

All issues facing the world of journalism really begin with one problem; how to reach and connect with an audience that shuns newspapers, television broadcasts and most regular news. Czerski, a Polish writer who’s work was translated into English, lays out the kind of unspoken mindset that many younger people have. His argument is really that the generations born using the Internet fundamentally see the world differently than their elder peers. It’s a terrifying thing to realize that making journalism successful in the future will require the kind of humongous overhaul in how we look at the world to work and remain profitable. (Also, the comments section hosts a great debate. Definitely worth a read.)

David Carr, the media reporter and resident crotchety old man of the New York Times, is a different breed of journalist. In the Future of News class I mentioned above, Carr seemed like the opposite of new thinkers such as Shirky and Rosen, so I was immediately fascinated with the prospect of the two eating dinner together. Carr’s essay didn’t really cover the debate raging between Shirky and people such as Starkman, but he did focus on an intriguing aspect of the online world I hadn’t thought about before; the lack of intimate contact. Carr ends his essay saying, “…you can follow someone on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, quote or be quoted by them in a newspaper article, but until you taste their bread, you don’t really know them.” Though there’s no connection to collegiate readings, I feel as though the limits of social media and the online world are an excellent reminder for collegiate journalists; interviews through email or Twitter are never as good as those done in person.

While those aren’t all the readings, sources and tools I use to go about this project, it’s a pretty good representation of the wide variety and information that I use to try and understand what college media is all about. If you’re reading this and think a piece or blog is missing or would fit right in, either email me here or leave a comment down below.