June 22, 2022

In Nebraska, more than half of the reporters covering the state capitol are student journalists, thanks in part to the Nebraska News Service from the University of Nebraska’s journalism school.

In Oglethorpe County, Georgia, the local newspaper is entirely produced by a University of Georgia journalism class.

And if you live in California, you can read higher ed news that’s produced by students from within the university system through CalMatters College Beat.

These are all examples of what researchers at the University of Vermont are calling news/academic partnerships — efforts on behalf of universities, journalism schools, individual professors or local media outlets to employ student journalists to cover local news.

Today, the University of Vermont officially launches its Center for Community News, whose mission is “to inspire and enable collaborations between local media outlets and students.”

Thanks to grants from the Knight Foundation and the university, the professors have $400,000 to aid their efforts at collecting, cataloging and analyzing these partnerships, among their other goals.

While many of these kinds of initiatives will sound familiar to journalism educators, this is the first effort of its kind to list them all in one place.

(Disclosure: I have been asked to serve on the advisory committee that launched this project and recruited Vermont professor Richard Watts to present his early findings at Poynter’s recent Teachapalooza.)

This national initiative will “support the critical role of local news media around the country and aid colleges in their efforts to help solve the crisis facing local news,” said a press release.

The new center’s four-prong approach includes:

  • Building and maintaining a comprehensive database of academic-news collaborations in the United States.
  • Supporting those involved in this work with examples, advice and consulting.
  • Continuing to innovate the “Vermont model” — UVM’s own community news initiative which “brings students together with professional editors to provide news reporting at no cost to local news outlets,” according to a release.
  • Providing citizen reporter trainings.

The national Center for Community News at UVM was inspired by the success of its local Community News Service, which pairs student reporters with professional editors to cover local issues and provide journalism to newsrooms around Vermont. Organizers said that since its launch in 2019, Community News Service reporters have produced more than 1,000 stories print, online and broadcast stories, serving as both a newsroom and a laboratory to creatively experiment with ways to help local news with the many challenges it faces.

Educators are encouraged to fill out this brief form so that researchers can include them in the new database and potentially include them in future work.

You can read more about this initiative in this introductory letter from CCN director Richard Watts and advisory chair Meg Little Reilly.

This article was updated to clarify that Oglethorpe is a county in Georgia, not a town.

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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…
Barbara Allen

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