College journalism

Purdue police detain student journalist, seize his camera

The Exponent | Journal & Courier

Michael Takeda, the photo editor for the independent Purdue University student paper The Exponent, “was slammed to the ground by the Purdue Police” Tuesday while reporting on a shooting on campus, Taylor Vincent reports.

The officers confiscated Takeda’s camera and photos, detained and questioned his whereabouts within the building, which was then on lockdown after being held by the police for roughly three hours.

Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center intervened after a request from the paper, Mikel Livingston reports in the Journal & Courier. Police returned the camera, and the paper’s publisher, Pat Kuhnle, told Livingston “it appeared that the photographs on the camera were untouched.”

You can see one of Takeda’s photos in this Exponent account of the shooting. Read more

Students at the University of Cincinnati talk on their phones in this April 2006 photo. Campus news sites are seeing their audiences migrate to mobile devices. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

College websites seeing mobile migration, but not all are ready

Website traffic at the University of Oregon’s Daily Emerald was less than 1 percent mobile in 2010. This year, it’s 39 percent and growing. And while visits on desktops have more than doubled to 951,000 since 2010, mobile visits have risen from about 2,700 to 619,000 — nearly 23,000 percent — in that time. (Statistics cover Jan. 1 through Oct. 31 of each year.)

“I told our students that I think next year we will be majority mobile and the news editor asked me: ‘What does that mean for us?’ ” Ryan Frank, Emerald Media Group publisher, said in a phone interview. “It means we’re no longer digital-first — we’re mobile-first.”

It’s a similar story at Ohio State University where I serve as student media director and oversee The Lantern Media Group. The Lantern has seen its mobile traffic grow from more than 16,000 visits in 2010 to nearly 531,000 this year, marking a dramatic rise from 1.4 percent of traffic to more than 25 percent.

But are college-media outlets doing enough to best serve their increasingly mobile audience? Experts say no.

“I think a lot of college newspapers are failing to take advantage of the natural audience for mobile news applications,” Rachele Kanigel, associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, where she advises Golden Gate Xpress, said in an email. “Many are so busy covering news and putting out their print and online editions that they don’t have the time and energy to think mobile-first. And social media and the need to feed that beast distracts college newspapers from mobile, too.”

Dan Reimold, an assistant professor of journalism at Saint Joseph’s University, where he advises The Hawk, agreed.

“College students are constantly on their mobile phones. College media are not — at least not yet,” Reimold, who also maintains the College Media Matters website, said in an email. “Most of the student press is still beholden to, at worst, a print-first mentality and, at best, a web-and-print mix-and-match mindset. Mobile is entering the conversation. But it’s not yet a driver in big-picture planning sessions or editorial meetings.”

Limited resources, business struggles

College-media outlets often have limited financial and human resources. They also must deal with high turnover among editorial and business staffs.

Another issue is that “a lot of student editors feel overwhelmed or daunted by the technical challenges of developing mobile apps,” said Kanigel, who is also president of the College Media Association. And there are high marketing costs involved to help ensure a new, native iPhone app is successful.

The Emerald Media Group is unusual in that it has a full-time, professional programmer on staff, who has designed a couple of native iPhone apps and some experimental projects. But the Daily Emerald’s website isn’t where it needs to be from a mobile perspective; Frank said some changes are likely before this school year is over.

To help better serve its increasingly mobile audience, the students working on The Lantern website redesign here at Ohio State insisted that the theme look good and be easy to navigate on mobile devices. The new site, which launched in September after about a year of work, is a big improvement from the old mobile version, which was basically a list of headline links. The mobile version essentially recreates the website pages, including much easier viewing of photos and other visuals. But it took longer than expected to roll out and there have been programming and other obstacles to overcome.

The business side also presents a challenge. Frank mentioned the possibility of exploring native advertising, or sponsored content, as used successfully at BuzzFeed, Quartz and elsewhere.  (Native advertising was discussed by the Federal Trade Commission yesterday in Washington.)

“In a mobile-first world, banner ads are not going to cut it,” Frank said, adding that teaching students to use their phones to shoot video or photos isn’t nearly as complicated as figuring out how to make money for college media in the increasingly mobile world.

Experimentation is happening

Still, the mobile news isn’t all bad.

Reimold said he has seen a recent increase in mobile-responsive sites among student press outlets, along with Instagram experimentation. Student reporters also are “definitely using mobile devices to regularly report breaking news and produce real-time coverage of big events.”

The Lantern and Buckeye TV crews here at Ohio State have used their smartphones to help cover breaking news events around campus. A journalism class here, taught by my colleague Nicole Kraft, provides iPads for student use as part of a broader Digital First initiative on campus.

Frank has seen some success with early adopters in the newsroom at Oregon, where the sports staff got good-quality microphones for their smartphones and recorded audio and video at football practices to upload to YouTube. There was also a recent fire that reporters on the scene covered using their mobile devices.

At San Francisco State, the Xpress magazine has had an iPad app for several years and one issue each semester is iPad-only, Kanigel said. (Here’s one example).

Both Reimold and Kanigel noted the UCLA Daily Bruin as among the best college-media outlets at experimenting with and producing mobile-first content.

Still, many college newspaper editors don’t go beyond optimizing content for mobile, said Kanigel.

“Only a few are truly thinking strategically about mobile when it comes to editorial content, advertising or both,” she said, adding that “I think there are opportunities for college newspapers to do some really innovative, ground-breaking work with mobile technology, but I’m not seeing a lot of it happening.”

The question of the moment for college-media outlets in the mobile realm, Frank said, remains to be answered: “How do we use the greatest reporting tool ever invented, which is in our pocket, and use it more effectively?” Read more


College paper pulls white supremacist ad after funding threats

Student Press Law Center | The Guardian

Student journalists at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, ran ads from a white supremacist group, then pulled the ads after administrators threatened to cut funding.

Samantha Vicent writes about the decision in Student Press Law Center, reporting that student paper The Guardian agreed to a four week contract with a group called The First Freedom, which reports on its own site that it’s supported by the Nation of Aryans Against Commie Putrefaction. Read more


U.S. Soccer-sponsored internship prepares students for ‘a really confusing world of journalism’

On Thursday, Poynter reported on a potential partnership between Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the U.S. Soccer Federation. Poynter initially made calls on the story with questions about the ethics of the arrangement. What degree of independence would the students have? Would they mostly be doing public relations?

But the story didn’t focus on those questions. Instead, it centered on the possibility that the whole thing might not happen after excited students began contacting the U.S. Soccer Federation themselves and the federation put on the brakes.

But it did include this line: “Feeding the U.S. Soccer’s Twitter account and other media sites wouldn’t be a problem for students in the school’s public relations (Strategic Communication) track, but poses ethical issues for the student journalists.”

And that’s what Bill Reader, associate professor at Ohio University, took issue with. In a comment posted on the story, Reader wrote:

It is unfair and unethical itself to level an allegation that there is some “ethical” impropriety with such an educational opportunity. College students are just that — students — who are free to take courses outside of their major areas of study or to get involved in activities that aren’t within the “bubbles” of their chosen majors.

In the case of students interested in sports journalism, it would be foolish for them to not also take some courses about sports administration and marketing.

Kelly McBride, Poynter senior faculty, said Friday that a variety of opportunities exist for journalists now, and an opportunity like OU’s partnership prepares students for “a really confusing world of journalism.” Read more

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College newspaper fires editor who it says plagiarized ‘from at least 22 sources’

The Criterion

The Criterion of Colorado Mesa University fired its online editor “after learning that as many as 16 of the opinion pieces she has written since October 2012 contain content plagiarized from at least 22 sources,” the paper writes in an unbylined piece that doesn’t name the editor. Read more


Update: Student editor at The Gramblinite won’t return


Grambling State University’s dean of students overturned the suspension of the online editor and the opinion editor at school paper The Gramblinite, Tracie Powell reports, but at least one of the students will not return to the paper.

“I feel like they tried to silence my voice,” David Lankster Sr. told Powell Tuesday, saying he wouldn’t return as online editor: “Rather than deal with that again, I’ll just start my own blog or website.”

Kimberly Monroe, The Gramblinite’s opinons editor, also wasn’t sure of her future with the school’s paper. “I’m not 100 percent sure at this moment. I will speak with my academic adviser later this week. But as of right now, I haven’t been back to the newsroom,” Powell reported Monroe said. “There are just a lot of things still left unsaid in terms of the communication between all staff members, including the adviser.” Read more


How college newspapers can cope with stories that go viral

One is a story about racial segregation within the Greek system at an iconic southern university. The other reads like a cheesy movie script except it was 100 percent true: college students renting part of an off-campus house discover a man living in a secret room in the basement.

The first story, which detailed how several sororities tried to pledge a black woman but were stopped by their alumnae and advisers, played out on the pages of The Crimson White at the University of Alabama. It garnered immediate attention from the national media, shut down the website from a traffic overload and forced staff members to hunker down in the newsroom and deal with the aftermath. At least one prominent journalist has suggested the paper deserves Pulitzer consideration for its work, and the story was featured in Poynter’s Excellence Project.

The Lantern at Ohio State University broke the second story and produced the accompanying video about the secret roommate. As OSU’s student media director, I fielded re-publication and broadcast permission requests from outlets in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, England, Norway and elsewhere.

Two stories. Two viral hits. Many different experiences for the college students involved in reporting and editing them. I spoke to those journalists about what it’s like behind the scenes of a viral hit and to glean some lessons they continue to learn.

‘Something bigger than we could have imagined’

Matt Ford, a senior journalism major and The Crimson White’s magazine editor, co-authored “The Final Barrier: 50 years later segregation still exists.” He said that while the paper’s staff expected local media to follow the story — and had received a tip that a national newspaper was pursuing it as well — the reaction still surprised them.

“We did not anticipate how big it would become,” Ford said in a phone interview. That changed quickly when friends starting texting him about the piece popping up on BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and elsewhere.

Co-author Abbey Crain said she was prepared for reader comments and negative reactions, but not the national spotlight. “The day after CNN came and wanted to talk to us,” and while that piece did not air, more interview requests followed, said Crain, also a senior journalism major and the paper’s culture editor.

Mazie Bryant, The Crimson White’s editor-in-chief, said she was so focused on getting the story through the editing process that she didn’t really think about the aftermath. Bryant, a senior journalism major, was on the phone with a lawyer the night before publication, making sure nothing could be considered libelous, especially since anonymous sources were used.

“We just wanted to be sure the story was perfect from an editorial standpoint,” Bryant said in a phone interview. “By the next day, the story was turning into something bigger than we could have imagined.”

Ohio State students had to wait a bit longer for reaction to “Students discover stranger living in basement.” The video, produced by Chelsea Spears, a junior journalism major and the Lantern’s assistant multimedia editor, was made live as a standalone piece around 3 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12. The print story ran Friday morning followed hours later by an email blast featuring the video as the lead piece in the weekly webcast.

The following Monday, USA Today and Fox requested some of the photos and video. “That’s when it hit me,” Spears said in an interview. “It was a shock, slightly terrifying.”

The most views one of her video pieces had previously received was around 3,300. That package was about a Harry Potter-themed fitness class being offered on campus.

“I’m happy to get more than 150 views. Normally, we don’t get anywhere close to 200,000,” Spears said. “It’s terrifying to know you’re being watched by that many people, but also very rewarding.”

Spears in a scene from the video with some of the surprise roommate’s belongings.

Kristen Mitchell, a senior journalism major at Ohio State and The Lantern’s editor-in-chief, said she knew the story had viral potential because it was “weird but relatable.”

But as Mitchell kept tabs on the YouTube hits, the enormity sunk in. “First it was 3,000, then 15, 30, 50 and 75. A story either has ‘it’ or doesn’t, in general, and this one has ‘it,’ ” she said. (The video piece has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube and the print version has accounted for more than 10 percent of the website’s traffic since the school year began; the next closest story is at 2.4 percent.)

The Crimson White’s website crashed after “The Final Barrier” took off, then was sluggish for hours because of the traffic influx. The site averaged more than 14,500 daily visits last month. The day the story broke there were 64,783 — an 869 percent increase over the same day the previous year – and the site needed 10 times its usual bandwidth to keep up.

Viral fame/infamy come with a price

Holly-Katharine Johnson, a professor of English and new media at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, N.J., has studied college media content that goes viral. She divides the stories into three basic categories: disaster coverage, positive stories based on exemplary reporting or unique circumstances, and negative pieces that often blindside the student journalists involved.

Disaster virals include coverage of weather events like a tornado or a campus shooting. In those cases, students tended to be more prepared for the possibilities of increased attention and opportunities from national media swooping in, Johnson said in a phone interview.

Negative virals, such as a commentary that receives attention far beyond the normal audience, often surprised and devastated the students involved. Those pieces tended to focus on subjects that routinely invoke partisan responses, like religion and women’s issues, although a column about tattoos in one college paper also brought audience outrage and backlash.

Negative virals often caused students involved to drop out of journalism, essentially silencing their voices, Johnson said. “These are not voices we want to lose,” Johnson said, adding that a few years ago college media outlets might get a few angry phone calls or letters about a particular story, not thousands of online comments, tweets or even threats.

“The era of making mistakes in college and moving on to a career in journalism is gone now,” she said.

You need a thick skin

Online comments, many from people outside the campus community, can be bracing, but some stories can reverberate offline as well.

Both Ford and Bryant are members of Greek organizations. Neither would talk specifically about any negative backlash they received because of that, but the story included an editor’s note informing readers that Bryant and the paper’s managing editor, also a Greek life member, did not participate in reporting it.

“I don’t think there are conflicting ideals” between the sorority and The Crimson White, Bryant said.

Ford said he learned not to allow personal ties to sources to affect the journalism. He said reaction within his fraternity and on campus have been overwhelmingly positive.

Bryant agreed, adding that she has learned the importance of separating her two worlds: journalism and everything else.

Crain, who had mostly done fashion and music stories before the sorority segregation piece, said she perhaps “underestimated myself.”

“This taught me I could do a real, investigative, hard journalism story,” she said. “And you have to have a thick skin. I’m kind of a baby when it comes to personal critiques.”

At Ohio State, some of the YouTube comments on Spears’ story are critical of everything from her voice to her reporting skills, even though “thumbs up” votes outnumber “thumbs down” 154-19.

“It’s my third year doing this and you need a thick skin,” Spears said. “The recognition came in waves,” starting with personal friends and then growing far beyond that circle. Reading the YouTube comments made her second-guess some of the reporting skills but she asked local professionals for feedback and some national reporters offered unsolicited insights that were helpful.

“All the negative comments came from behind a computer screen, they’re impersonal,” Spears said. “But you can’t have an off week as an excuse. You never know who is going to see your journalism packages. You must be on top of your game all the time.”

Spears also said that having the print reporter there while she shooting helped both stories. “It showcased how the different platforms can push the story further,” she said.

Mitchell, who edited the print story but did not see the video before it aired, agreed. “More communication never hurt. We take pride in what we do here, but it is a learning process. People thought that was a professionally produced piece, but Chelsea is a junior in college. It’s still news and she did an amazing job.”

Johnson’s research found that in general, if the viral content is a positive story based on in-depth reporting, even when it’s controversial, there were future opportunities for the journalists.

The students used it to “propel themselves forward to get jobs and saw this as really helpful,” she said. Read more

Group of young people in training course

College papers cutting back on print editions

At least three college newspapers announced this month that they’re going to cut their print schedules — the University of Illinois’ Daily Illini, the University of Missouri’s The Maneater and San Diego State University’s The Aztec. They join other college newspapers, including Duke University’s The Chronicle, that have been cutting back on their print editions.

The Daily Illini will publish four days a week instead of five as a cost-cutting measure, editor-in-chief Darshan Patel told the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette. Digital technology also played into the decision. “What we noticed on our website and now on the mobile site is that more students go to that than pick up our papers,” Patel said.

The Maneater, Mizzou’s independent newspaper, will publish once a week instead of twice a week. Editor-in-chief Ted Noelker said in a phone interview that the move is being made to free up staff to expand digital operations. Read more


Red & Black’s student board members get voting rights

The Red & Black | Student Press Law Center

Two student members of The Red & Black’s board will have voting rights, the independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia announced Monday.

A conflict between the board and student journalists last year led to a weird chapter in the history of American university journalism:

1) The students walked off the job Aug. 15 after the board placed its adviser in charge of editorial content, a move the paper’s now-former publisher Harry Montevideo characterized as an “overreaction” in an interview with Poynter. Read more

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Princeton Review names Cornell Daily Sun the nation’s top college newspaper

Princeton Review | College Media Matters

The Cornell Daily Sun is the best college newspaper in the U.S., Princeton Review’s annual survey says. That’s “a startlingly dramatic rise for the Cornell University student pub,” Dan Reimold writes in College Media Matters. Last year’s champion, the Daily Collegian of Penn State, dropped to fifth place.

The Top 10: Read more

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