April 29, 2020

The Lead is a weekly newsletter that provides resources and connections for student journalists in both college and high school. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every Wednesday morning.

An exciting announcement

The Lead is partnering with The Poynter Institute!

I started brainstorming the idea for The Lead while working as Poynter’s summer fellow in 2018. This is a sweet full-circle moment, and I’m excited for this partnership.

Barbara Allen, Poynter’s director of college programming, will be my editor. She has years of experience as a college media adviser and will bring valuable ideas and news judgment to the newsletter.

What does this mean for you? Not much — the mission and structure of The Lead will remain the same.

The newsletter will now arrive in your inbox each Wednesday, instead of Tuesday, and you’ll be able to find each issue on Poynter.org. Expect to hear from Poynter’s in-house experts periodically. I’m also hoping to find student contributors to be paid guest writers — stay tuned for more on that.

Your support has helped this newsletter grow and get to this point. Thank you!

— Taylor Blatchford

10 student-oriented coronavirus story ideas

Lots of the initial coronavirus breaking news has passed — most campuses are closed and have shifted to remote learning. But there’s still plenty of reporting to be done. Here are 10 story ideas and questions you can ask about your own school.

What’s your school’s plan for the fall? Some schools are announcing they plan to reopen campus and hold in-person classes, while others are taking a more cautious tone. If your school is planning to reopen, what measures is it considering to ensure campus can operate safely?

How has the pandemic affected enrollment numbers and student recruitment? It’s hard to commit to a college without visiting campus. What efforts is your school making to reach out to students and make up for that experience? And in high schools, how are counselors guiding students remotely, especially graduating seniors?

How did decisions to cancel in-person classes happen? Here’s where public records requests come in, if you’re at a public school. Consider requesting emails between university leaders related to campus closures and transitioning to online classes. To make your search more specific, and therefore more likely to be fulfilled, limit it to certain dates and email addresses. Here’s the Student Press Law Center’s template for a records request.

What resources are your schools providing students in need? Are students who need housing able to stay on campus? Are work-study programs continuing to pay students or allow them to work from home? And what about over the summer — will on-campus housing and services be available to students who need them?

How has your school’s budget been affected by the pandemic? The University of Arizona announced employee furloughs and pay cuts to make up for budget shortages, and it seems likely that other universities will follow. For K-12 schools and universities alike, how will state budget shortages affect funds for schools, and what’s your school’s contingency plan?

Is your university doing coronavirus-related research? And how have limits on in-person contact affected ongoing research?

How can you represent this story visually? While taking appropriate social-distancing precautions, consider how you can show your readers an empty campus, the adjustments to learning at home and other nuances of daily life in this unprecedented time.

What’s happening to local businesses near campus? The coffee shop that’s full of students between classes, the restaurants with the ridiculous happy hour specials — how are they adapting when many students have gone home?

How are athletes continuing to train? The NCAA canceled the spring sports season, and many states have followed suit with high school sports. How are athletes recalibrating and training at home?

How is your staff adapting to cover this time? If you haven’t already, it’s worth writing an editor’s note explaining how you’ve been approaching coronavirus coverage, how you’re keeping staff members safe and any adjustments you’ve made to online and print distribution.

One tool we love

Nuzzel curates the stories people you know are reading so you can save time on social media. Log in with your Twitter account to get an easy-to-read digest of the stories most shared by your friends over the last day or hour. You can also easily curate a newsletter of you and your friends’ top reads.

What’s your favorite tool that other student journalists should know about? Email me and I might feature it in a future issue.

One story worth reading

The coronavirus reached New York City and Seattle at about the same time, but the cities have fared very differently, Charles Duhigg reports for The New Yorker. “Seattle’s leaders moved fast to persuade people to stay home and follow the scientists’ advice; New York’s leaders, despite having a highly esteemed public-health department, moved more slowly, offered more muddied messages, and let politicians’ voices dominate,” Duhigg wrote. His reporting on the cities’ communication and leadership choices can be used as a framework to analyze responses by your own local and campus leaders.

Opportunities and trainings

💌 Last week’s newsletter: Here’s how you can help #SaveStudentNewsrooms

📣 I want to hear from you. What would you like to see in the newsletter? Have a cool project to share? Email blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com.

Taylor Blatchford is a journalist at The Seattle Times who independently writes The Lead, a newsletter for student journalists. She can be reached at blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com or on Twitter @blatchfordtr.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Taylor Blatchford is a journalist at The Seattle Times who independently writes The Lead, a newsletter for student journalists. She can be reached at blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com…
Taylor Blatchford

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