April 24, 2020

Alma Matters is a regularly updated feature on Poynter.org designed to assist educators, journalism students and student media organizations.

Struggling and need advice? Have a tip or tool you want to share with others? Email me at ballen@poynter.org.

Survey says …

Andy Thomason of The Chronicle for Higher Education has this twitter thread announcing schools’ fall plans. The general consensus is that there isn’t one. Cal State Fullerton and San Jose State are planning for a fall semester remotely, Purdue and Mizzou are planning in-person, on-campus classes; Harvard and Boston are considering fall semesters that start in January, whereas Texas, Yale and George Washington will announce firm plans in the coming weeks.

Doubts about a fall college football season surface noticeably throughout the thread.

So what will happen? This comprehensive look from the Chronicle outlines 15 fall scenarios. Fifteen?! Worth a read.

Come on down!

This Washington Post story about what schools are doing to entice students is 🔥👀 (Maybe a bad emoji juxtaposition? Nope, my eyes were definitely burning.)

Can we afford this?

Robert Kelchen is an associate professor at Seton Hall who studies higher education finance. His recent blog post seeks to address the many questions he’s getting regarding coronavirus and higher ed. He writes, “When will higher ed reopen? I’m not that kind of doctor.”

Among his other insights: All university employees should prepare for a 10-15% pay reduction over the next two years; he’s most worried about the solvency of historically black colleges and universities and pricy private colleges in rural areas; and he says big state schools that rely heavily on international and non-residential students will sustain big hits but survive.

Some good internship news — flexibility

How are internships impacting your graduation requirements? I talked Thursday to Betsy Rate, director of career planning at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She said their program, like many others, was reassessing internship requirements that will impact graduation as some news organizations are rescinding summer offers. Enriching student experience is important to their program, she said, but they are also working to be flexible to meet students’ and employers’ needs.

Has your school addressed the intersection of internships and graduation? I’d love to hear from a school that has a plan in place and is willing to share.

Save Student Newsrooms, 2020 edition

In 2018, editors at the Independent Florida Alligator coordinated with more than 100 other student newspapers in a campaign to #SaveStudentNewsrooms. It’s happening again Saturday. Organizers suggest student journalists:

  • Publish and write an editorial about your COVID-19 coverage, if you haven’t already. Explain to your readers the impact you’ve had and why student journalism is essential. (Here are example editorials.)
  • Share stories on social media that your staff has written on the impacts of COVID-19, your own personal experiences, photos, videos and any other coverage that is telling of this insane chapter in news.
  • Highlight investigative pieces or other projects you’re proud of.
  • At the very least, tweet using #SaveStudentNewsrooms!

Organizers are asking that student newsrooms planning to participate register their information here.

More schools stepping up

I’ve asked you for feedback on schools that are stepping up to help their displaced summer interns —here are a few more. Administrators, it’s not too late to help your students — and students, are you asking for help?

  • From Chuck Clark: “WKU Student Publications at Western Kentucky University is going into its ninth summer funding professional journalism internships, which we call fellowships, through the generosity of alumni and friends of the College Heights Herald and the Talisman. This summer, we have funded 10 such fellowships.”
  • Vige Barrie of Hamilton College (Clinton, New York), writes: “Because the job market is so volatile this year, Hamilton College is extending its summer internship funding for unfunded and underfunded internships to graduating seniors who may need to be more flexible in the coming months. The college wants to help seniors bridge the gap until the things return to normal … whatever new normal may be.”

Lesson idea

Michael Kelly was a journalist’s journalist — hard-working, fearless and engaging, with a resume that unfurls like a scroll. He was killed on assignment in Iraq in 2003.

The Micheal Kelly Award was established in his honor to reward “the fearless pursuit and expression of truth.” Four finalists for the 2020 award were announced this week, and they present some incredible reading for student journalists who want to see how the best investigations unfold.

These would be great for classes  — have students read them and pick the one they think should win and explain why; filter out some of their narrative, investigative and writing techniques to showcase; discuss the process by which each journalist would have to assemble and approach these stories — in other words, have your class read a piece and then work backward to understand how stories like these eventually come together.

That process is made easier because at least two of the finalists provided behind-the-scenes transparency. The Washington Post’s “The Afghanistan Papers,” has an AMA with the writer and editors, and How The Post unearthed The Afghanistan Papers. The New York Times’ “Kill or Be Killed” has Three Weeks Embedded in Honduran Gang Territory, part of its Times Insider feature.

Remember, send me your questions, ideas, solutions, tips … I’ll try to help as much as I can in a future column! Hit me up at ballen@poynter.org or on Twitter, barbara_allen_

Till next time, stay away!

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Poynter.org. She spent two decades in…
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