February 21, 2021

This week I spoke to a student journalist at Towson University, which is near Baltimore, about the news that the Sun was going to a nonprofit. I’m no media business expert, but I usually field the college calls that ring into Poynter. Connor and I had a nice chat about what the future holds for the Sun, in which I’m invested personally as I have a former student there (hi Nathan!) and a former colleague (hi Anne!). Also, I’m super duper interested in what the future holds for emerging journalists — as is Connor, of course. He wondered during our interview if places like Alden Global Capital should have him gloomy about his future in the media, and I told him that I sincerely suspected not. There are a lot of reasons out there to be hopeful about a future in journalism — especially in ways that defy the traditional corporate media ladder-climbing we educators may unintentionally reinforce.

See my item below about the collaboration taking place in South Carolina when one newspaper decided a different way to allocate resources. I read this week about a new nonprofit news entity in Fort Worth. Gannett is doing something interesting with advertising.

My point is that journalism students today continue to need examples of what success and entrepreneurism in the media business look like. How much do we teach our communications students about nonprofit structure and funding? Do we encourage them to pursue entrepreneurship and marketing coursework? Do we highlight successful collaborations that would have seemed ridiculous in the competitive media environment in which many of us came up?

So that’s where I’m coming from when I link to work that maybe doesn’t seem immediately pertinent to journalism education per se. I feel like I serve you best when I deliver to you a weekly slice of what’s out there happening in the professional world along with ideas for pedagogy.

A few links

Doesn’t this Seattle Times headline warm your heart? Teach journalism as a life skill, and start early.

This piece was making the rounds this week on Gen via Medium. It’s a long read at 24 minutes but worth it if you’re advising a college newsroom: College Journalists Are Reshaping Media. It has a lot of really powerful thoughts from student newsroom leaders.

This feels like an exciting new development: UNCOVERED — News deserts and weak ethics laws allow corruption to run rampant in SC. From the homepage: “The Post and Courier has launched ‘Uncovered,’ a project to cast new light on questionable government conduct, especially in smaller towns. We’ll work with community newspapers, leveraging The Post and Courier’s investigative resources with reporters who know their towns inside and out. We’ll publish our findings simultaneously.”

Regular readers know I’m a big believer in collaborations and love to see the new ground they uncover — and the possibilities that presents for emerging journalists.

I was excited to see one of the student newspapers in the Poynter College Media Project and its amazing editor, Oyin Adedoyin, in this Student Press Law Center profile, HBCU newspaper editors tell us about their work and the significance of Black student journalists reporting Black news.

Ooh, here’s something I’ve been curious about but didn’t think to explore: Nieman Reports’ Clio Chang writes With the Loss of Physical Newsrooms, How are Young Journalists Faring?.

You had me at ‘open records’

When it comes to headlines about open records requests, I am like a fly to honey. (A quick fact-check/Google search reveals that means I look forward to regurgitating digestive juices onto solids and then using my proboscis to absorb the broken-down nutrients. Nevermind. That is not how I am about open records reporting.) What a Public-Information Act Request Revealed About My College President ticked all my boxes: power hungry president, faculty threats and recrimination, COVID-19 crises, and a plea for “a good investigative reporter.” How I hope someone heads this professor’s call; this was an even more fulfilling read than I could have imagined.

I’ll offer the obvious caveat that if you’re teaching journalism or adhere to the principles of journalism, replicating the author’s social media activism might be problematic. And you do have to log in to see a limited number of free Chronicle of Higher Education stories.

Anyway, while I’m on the subject of open records, I’ll take this chance to remind you that Poynter has a free Frank LoMonte-led course that’s perfect for college students: Open Records Success: Strategies for Writing Requests and Overcoming Denials. We launched it in October and it’s had hundreds of enrollees already.

Takeaways from a Philly audit

I was interested to read What we learned from an independent diversity audit of more than 3,000 Philadelphia Inquirer stories from the Lenfest Institute about a study conducted by Temple University. The findings will probably not be surprising to an industry that has come to understand its lack of diversity in house and in coverage: “Among its broad findings, the study determined that despite the Philadelphia region’s diversity, a significant majority of people who appear in The Inquirer as news subjects or sources are white and male. When Inquirer news teams are themselves diverse, they tend to include more people of color in their stories, according to the report. And despite recent progress in the hiring and promotion of journalists of color, nearly three-fourths of The Inquirer’s newsroom is white.”

The paper covered itself with Inquirer has overwhelmingly white newsroom and its coverage underrepresents people of color, report says. Columnist Ernest Owens summarized it starkly: The Inquirer needs a racism intervention.

Some background: The Inquirer is actually owned by the Lenfest Institute (founded by the late Inquirer owner H.F. Lenfest), a nonprofit organization committed to “building viable, replicable models for sustainable local news enterprises.”

The audit, conducted by the late Bryan Monroe and Andrea Wenzel of Temple’s Klein College of Media and Communication, offers some insight into how your university or student media organization or some combination of entities could conduct a content audit of whatever local entity you deem necessary.

Interesting, the Inquirer and Lenfest, along with The Brown Institute, recently won a $300,000 grant from the Google New Initiative to create a digital content auditing tool “to build and test machine learning-based tools that help newsrooms analyze equity and representation in their work at scale.”

Consider familiarizing your students with the concepts and basics of content auditing, as this promises to be an emerging research area and potentially even a skill set.

College headlines

Great journalism to share with your students

This week’s Professor’s Press Pass

This week’s Professor’s Press Pass is about a topic it seems like many of us have reversed course on: the right to be forgotten. In this case study, we look at what’s going on in markets like Boston and Cleveland, which have developed formal processes for takedown requests, and feature some of the people who’ve made those requests. Students are asked to consider the circumstances under which content removal is appropriate and fair, and when it’s not.

Our library is up to 15 case studies this week! I hope you’ll take a look and consider a subscription for yourself.

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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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