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.
Dear student journalists,
This year has been a lot. If you’re anything like me, your nerves are frayed by all the unanticipated challenges that have come with living through a pandemic. You’ve had to adjust to school all online, or partially online, or all in-person in a strained attempt at “normalcy” that’s anything but normal. Would you rather throw your phone into the sea than get another news alert about the pandemic or the election? Me, too.
But in a year where the news cycle seems to only get faster, don’t lose sight of the importance of next Tuesday. This is the first presidential election most student journalists will be covering, and it’ll be some of the most important community service work you’ll do all year.
Election Day (and night, and the days to follow) are when you can shine. You get to do what you do best: sift through an overload of information to inform your audience and make them smarter.
As you plan for next week, put your readers first — the students, campus and local community members. They’re not coming to your student paper for the latest on the presidential race, but they do want to know how their community is reacting and how local races will shape their futures. Keep your mission at the forefront of your reporting and think about how you can add local flavor to your coverage rather than replicating what national outlets are already doing.
A few final resources to get you to the finish line:
- Revisit these tips and story ideas for student journalists from ProPublica reporter Jessica Huseman.
- When you see questionable information spreading around your campus, here’s how to fact-check it.
- My colleague and editor Barbara Allen compiled historical background and resources for your election night planning.
- Two of PolitiFact’s journalists wrote about how you can prepare readers for the possibility that results won’t be finalized on election night.
Finally, find satisfaction in knowing you’re part of a long journalism tradition, even though this election night will be unconventional. Order pizza, even if you’re in an apartment by yourself rather than a crowded newsroom. (One perk: You can choose your own toppings and there’s no obligation to make a side salad to look like you’re eating a balanced dinner.)
Take a deep breath and take time away from the news this next week. You’ve got this.
I want to hear about your election night
I’m looking for student editors to tell me how their publications manage election night and share the best of their coverage! Email me and I’ll share more details of what I’m looking for.
And a programming note: Next week’s newsletter will come to your inboxes on Thursday, Nov. 5. I’ll be manning The Seattle Times’ social media accounts from my dining room table on Tuesday night (with pizza, of course) and will compile your reporting the next day.
One tool we love
Election SOS, a project from Hearken and Trusting News, has a wealth of resources as you finalize plans and reporting for next week. A few highlights:
- A database of vetted, nonpartisan election experts
- A guide to help your newsroom consider and plan for various election night scenarios
- A list of election resource stories your newsroom can replicate
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
Seven college newspapers in North Carolina collaborated on a statewide voter guide with registration information, FAQs, columns and county-specific information. It’s another great example of how student journalists can pool their resources to serve their audiences better and be collaborators, not competitors.
Opportunities and trainings
- Summer 2021 internship database listing paid newsroom internships
- Newly added: Tacoma News Tribune, Bellingham Herald, Charlotte Observer, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee, Idaho Statesman
- Upcoming deadlines: Austin American-Statesman, Miami Herald, Pulliam Fellowship, Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times
- Register for the virtual Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, Nov. 9-14.
- The New York Times is hosting two contests for teenagers to discuss the election and the pandemic.
- Register for the virtual National High School Journalism Convention, Nov. 19-21.
- The New York Times Student Journalism Institute is a free two-week intensive program open to college journalists of color. Apply by Dec. 7.
- NPR is hosting its annual Student Podcast Challenge plus a new College Edition.
- High school juniors, apply for the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference for an all-expenses-paid conference and $1,000 scholarship.
- Watch a free Poynter webinar on tools to help your election night reporting.
💌 Last week’s newsletter: How your student newsroom can fact-check to combat misinformation
📣 I want to hear from you. What would you like to see in the newsletter? Have a cool project to share? Email email@example.com.