Few things really get my goats – among them are university administrators who ban student journalists and goat stealers. (I’m sure I picked up that joke from Mad Magazine in the late ’80s. Thanks for that subscription, Dad.)
This week, freelance journalists Erin A. Hennessy and Christine Maloney, “College administrators should work with student journalists, not avoid them,” for Poynter. You know you’ve got a good chunk when you feel your blood starting to boil during release. Officials who yearn for student reporters must be one of the craziest, most frustrating, and unfair things that can happen to young journalists.
Sure, this kind of obfuscation prepares student journalists for lives filled with official coverage of government officials, but as Hennessy and Maloney point out, there is something particularly bad about so-called professionals in higher education who give up their duties to participate in the educational process…no matter what the excuse. Which they’re using: “You misquoted.” “Your paper makes a lot of mistakes.” “I am too busy to speak to such a small outlet.”
Sorry, my blood is boiling again.
Occasionally, student-journalists successfully resist, but for the most part, I’d argue that the student-journalists versus administrators scoreboard is as unbalanced as a smile.
Just this week, she advised a stubborn young journalist in Florida who was repeatedly asked to interview members of her management to face delays, cancellations, and silence.
I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the chorus here, so I’ll give you some tips to share with your students.
- Give administrators as much time as possible to respond to requests for information and interviews.
- Tell them when your deadline is.
- Keep good notes about the circumstances under which you communicated with them – email, phone, text.
- Keep trying over and over. Note your attempts by date, time, and format.
- Always be professional and kind, never threatening. Don’t beg or beg. Simply state your constant need to reach them.
- Use statements like, “This story is not complete and accurate without your comments” and “I know this is a short notice, but I think you’ll agree that this is important to students.”
If you are still stoned…
- Look at your notes and briefly summarize your attempts to access this source(s) in as much detail as possible. “Mr. The College President has not responded to three emails and two calls to his office over the past week.”
- Write down what you intend to play and send it verbatim to the hesitating source, explaining, “That’s what I’m going to say about our attempts to reach you on today’s 5pm radio.”
- Then run with it. Repeat – frequently – if necessary.
In an age where journalists are increasingly demonized by politicians and the public, there is still something compelling about hearing that a young journalist is seriously trying to do due diligence, but is being ignored and mistreated by the establishment.
Be precise, but let your audience know what happens when the young officials they get paid to teach fail. Do it early and often. Make it a habit.
Well, I’m going to get out of my soapbox. I have to go find my goats.
Last week I wrote about the University of Georgia’s experience with a small local newspaper where the publication was primarily donated to the school so that a master class could run. I heard from Richard Watts of the University of Vermont, director of the Vermont Research Center and co-director of Documentary Reporting and Storytelling.
He wrote: “We have a model to try here – the Community News Service – where students write stories for local newspapers under the supervision of professional editors and writers. The goal is to provide content for struggling local news outlets and give students exceptional applied learning experiences. We have around 1,000 stories in and have more than 20 partners from The media we write to them and under their guidance and standards…Given the funding model, we think we may have something that can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere.”
The Boston Globe wrote about it with “Vermont Colleges Uniting to Help Community Newspapers.”
A Quick Show of Hands – If you were interested in learning more about what the top innovation press is doing with projects like this, would you reply to this email? I’m thinking of more reports and maybe game brochures that gather this kind of information, if there’s an interest.
I suppose you didn’t miss the news, as former New York Times opinion columnist Bari Weiss’ Substack expressed, “We can’t wait for universities to fix themselves. So we’re starting a new one.” (Find a little more context with “Conservative Thinkers and Ideological Theorists at The Houston Post.” Chronicle announces the creation of an alternative college to the University of Austin that is “strictly independent”). Fun day to A parody, but author John Warner suggests, “What’s the University of Austin getting for?”
Here’s the story of the week that makes you happy: airport reunions. Show these to your visually minded students. What makes these shots work? How do you add or subtract masks from images? Personally, I like the personal and attentive outline.
Here’s an interesting localization opportunity: Does your campus feature housing owned by this company? What do students who live in these sites say? (I know that in my time as a consultant, horror stories about luxury apartments off-campus have surfaced periodically.) This might be a good time to find out how off-campus apartment complexes are operating in light of the pandemic, and ask about the implications for students who live there and the community Campus.
If you work at a university that gets federal dollar contracts, you know the deadline for federal vaccine authorization is coming up on November 22 (although there is union pressure to bring it back). My colleague Al Tompkins, in his excellent newsletter on COVID-19 coverage, highlights the work of The San Diego Union-Tribune to determine what actually qualifies for religious exemption from vaccination. Tompkins writes: “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has just issued new guidance on how to consider exemption. The guidance comes under Title VII, the federal employment discrimination law. Title VII requires employers to “accommodate” the faithful religious beliefs and practices of employees in the absence of undue hardship. she has “.
New Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines attempt to separate religious beliefs from secular beliefs. The EEOC says that objections to COVID-19 vaccination that are based on social, political or personal preferences, or on non-religious concerns about the vaccine’s potential effects are not considered “religious beliefs” under Title VII. Standing in the percentage of employees claiming religious exemption?
This is the trailer for “Storm Lake,” a documentary about a small-town newspaper, the family devoted to it, and journalism’s larger ties to democracy. It looks really inspiring. I think it might be great for in-class viewing, especially for students who will find that the New York Times and NBC “Nightly News” don’t come straight up when they graduate. It premieres at 10 PM EST Monday night on PBS.
This is a great feature for sports reporting: Sportico has released a database of Division 1 information on the Sports Division. Enjoy fishing there with your morning coffee, or in the case of your sports department, your late-night Red Bull.
Putting my own anti-misinformation and misinformation cover on for these last two items.
First, Illinois will be the first state to mandate media literacy in high school. This is what the students will learn.
And second, the Surgeon General has released an illustrated kit specifically directed at talking to friends and family about vaccine misinformation. Just in time for Thanksgiving!
Hey, if that doesn’t work, you can always play some Adele.
One valuable way you can promote diversity, equity and inclusion in your classroom is to share with the press about, through, and for diverse communities—not just stories of predominantly white, heterosexual people. Consider the ways you can use these stories in your approach. Here are some examples I’ve seen this week. I also include headlines on DEI news and issues.
This week, we feature Isabel Armento of the University of Toronto, who wrote, “Student Journalists Ask: Is Objectivity Obsolete?”
Subscribe to The Lead’s weekly newsletter, aimed at student journalists, and encourage your students to do the same.
In this week’s Professor’s Pass, we’re examining the state of The Verge and the phrase “in the background”. What does that mean, and why did The Verge make such a splash in the world of journalism about politics? (You can pair this lesson with our recent case study on what it means to make a lesson unsaved.)