April 14, 2021

How would you define “the state of student journalism?” That’s the topic I reflected on for a recent presentation, and wow, it’s a big one.

I spoke to a group of student journalists over the weekend at the Nieman Foundation’s Georges Conference on College Journalism. I’d traveled to the conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, two years ago for a similar presentation; this time, I spoke on Zoom from my bedroom-turned-office.

Putting together the presentation gave me a chance to step back from the week-to-week of writing this newsletter and really think about what the past year has looked like for student journalists. I narrowed down the “state of student journalism” to four challenges I see student newsrooms around the country facing:

  • Losing print revenue and figuring out online sustainability: Perhaps the biggest challenge facing every newspaper in the last decade, not just student newspapers.
  • Censorship from schools and pushback from administrators: A perennial issue for student journalism, which also applies to the lack of information schools released during the pandemic.
  • A lack of diverse voices and distrust from the community: The pipeline of student newsrooms to professional newsrooms needs to widen for the journalism industry to become more inclusive and representative.
  • Filling in the gaps to cover local communities: As local newspapers continue to shrink or close entirely, where do student publications fit in?

In the face of these challenges, student newsrooms are innovating and creating a new future for the profession. Professional newsroom leaders need to sit up and pay attention to the initiatives they’re taking: Creating greater transparency around staff and coverage diversity. Capitalizing on competition for innovative fundraising. Finding and filling gaps in community coverage. Addressing burnout and protecting staff mental health.

These issues aren’t unique to student journalism — they affect the whole industry. Student newsrooms are simply often more adept at pivoting and less resistant to the “but that’s the way we’ve always done things” mindset. Talking with this group left me feeling encouraged about the future and eager for the next generation of students to enter professional newsrooms.

What else would you add to this list of challenges and innovations? What would you like to see covered in future newsletter issues? My email inbox is always open: blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com.

Tell me about your internship experiences

Last summer, many newsrooms ventured into the world of remote internships for the first time during the pandemic — and while some newsrooms have returned to the office, many will still be hosting remote interns this year. If you’ve done a remote internship in the past year, I want to hear about your experience to help both students and employers figure out what they can do to make the experience as valuable as possible.

Email me at blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com with a paragraph or two responding to the following. I’ll feature a selection of responses in an upcoming newsletter.

  • What worked well during your remote internship?
  • What advice would you give students entering remote internships this summer?
  • What did your internship coordinator do to make the remote experience valuable?

A Poynter opportunity for college newsrooms

From my editor, Barbara Allen:

Applications are now open for the Poynter College Media Project.

This year’s one-semester program will offer five independent student media organizations the chance to work with Poynter to investigate an issue on campus. If selected, your school will also receive a $1,500 grant to pursue the project, and all the help Poynter can throw at you. Thanks to a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, the program will be offered at no change to the five schools selected.

You can read all the details here. As for what we’re going to be looking for in an applicant: What will help is having a well-thought-out local project that will stand out from other entries. We want to hear from newspapers, TV stations, radio stations — anything that’s student-run and produces real news.

Opportunities and trainings

💌 Last week’s newsletter: Student newspapers raise more than $90,000 in fundraising challenge

📣 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.

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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