May 13, 2021

“The thing about student newsrooms — especially now that they exist virtually — is that there are no boundaries.”

“Having an environment where I can pursue my passion for journalism while being surrounded by people who also share that passion is extremely important to me and my mental health.”

“I knew before applying to write for Daily Trojan that I did not want to be an editor, after hearing the horror stories of those current and past.”

“I’ve always been a ‘yes’ person. While that can be a great thing in the journalism industry, it can also be detrimental.”

Student journalists shared thoughtful testimonies about their experiences with mental health in their newsrooms in The Student Journalism Wellness Project, a new project from students at the University of Southern California. If any of the above sentiments sound familiar, the site is worth checking out.

Earlier this year in a newsletter issue about burnout, I included a callout from Natalie Bettendorf, a USC journalism student putting together mental health resources for student journalists. Natalie reports that many of this newsletter’s readers sent her great contributions, and the final product is now live.

The website is full of thoughtful testimonies from students around the country, advice from journalists and mental health professionals, and resources on mental health and burnout. Take some time to explore it, and share your experiences with the site’s creators.

Prepare your sources for interviews

Only 21% of Americans say they’ve ever spoken to a local journalist, and among students, that number is probably even lower. How do you make sure you’re on the same page as your sources when you start an interview?

Last week’s newsletter from Trusting News stood out to me because it’s such a simple concept that many of us probably just don’t think about. Clear communication with sources helps them understand how journalism works and what our goals are.

Joy Mayer writes:

Most people *don’t* know what to expect from an interview, right? Why would they, if it’s a new situation? They don’t automatically understand where you’re coming from or what you need — and they’re unlikely to give you the benefit of the doubt as they fill in their own assumptions.

Think about the basic idea that you are requesting (and will make public) a source’s first and last name. We know as journalists that being on the record is important, so the audience can know who they’re hearing from and can put the information in context. But your source might never have given that any thought. If they express surprise, try connecting your need to the bigger picture of how journalism works.

Many stories worth reading

My colleague Barbara Allen wrote in her Alma Matters newsletter about 10 student publications that partnered with Poynter’s College Media Project for investigative or explanatory projects. Spend some time with these projects:

  • Texas State University: In “The 11 Percent Project,” The University Star’s staff told the story of Texas State’s Black students, both currently and through the years, with a timeline, stories, videos, podcasts and a live event. (They even created a project merch shop!)
  • USC Annenberg Media Center: The student-run media center created a three-person Equity Board to ensure equitable coverage in their reporting and provide guidance for reporters working on sensitive topics around diversity and inclusion. The board participated in editorial pitch meetings, reviewed content, and published a style guide on best practices for the newsroom.
  • Morgan State University: The team at The Spokesman launched “Black Health Matters”, a series on racial disparities in health that included stories, multimedia and a live webinar — and one of my favorite stories in the entire series, “As coronavirus variants circulate Baltimore, the vaccine debate persists within the Black community.”
  • University of Richmond: With “The Westham Project,” The Collegian launched a series of reports about the university’s complicated relationship with race, beginning with a look at the school’s efforts to address the fact that sections of campus were built on top of the Westham Burying Ground, where bodies of slaves were buried.
  • Colorado State University: The Rocky Mountain Collegian examined its campus culture following a number of high-profile incidents over the last few years. The staff produced a series of reports aimed at fostering dialogue at CSU, and even contracted with a consulting firm for best practices. They also added an op-ed section called “Notes from the Margin,” inviting students from marginalized communities to share their experiences.
  • The University of South Florida St. Petersburg: In “Green & Gold,” The Crow’s Nest examined the consolidation of USF’s three campuses, and ran a series of explanatory breakdowns for its student audience about how the new budget will impact them.
  • Johns Hopkins University: The News-Letter planned a year-end virtual magazine examining the historical relationship between their school’s marquee medical community and the rest of the area.
  • The University of Kansas: The Daily Kansan will publish a four-part series on the impact of administrative transparency, or lack thereof — including an examination of what happens when leaders aren’t forthcoming about Title IX complaints, what goes on in Greek life and more.
  • Duquesne University: In a special section culminating a year of work, the staff of the Duke highlighted the stories of Black students, alumni and local community members making change in their communities.

Opportunities and trainings

💌 Last week’s newsletter: What one newsroom learned from introducing paid positions for low-income student journalists of color

📣 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.

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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…
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