March 13, 2022

Alma Matters is a Poynter newsletter designed to provide ideas, news and insight to those in the journalism education community. Subscribe here to get Alma Matters delivered to you.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Associated Collegiate Press’ conference in Long Beach, California. (Shoutout to all the folks gathering this weekend in New York for the College Media Association conference — my fomo is real!)

Being back in person was, in a word, bad ass. (I guess that’s two words. I stand by them.)

I felt completely rejuvenated to assemble in real life with students, professors and advisers. I could almost feel my little cup filling and running over as I led a session on managing your newsroom friends, and also when I turned over the podium to the students I’ve been working with on diversity, equity and inclusion systems in college newsrooms.

But — to borrow a header from Axios — but but.

The experiences that stayed with me most came from the dozens of students who showed up seeking advice on dealing with stress, burnout and trauma, and their advisers, who gathered to bloodlet in a different session in a small hotel conference room.

It seems like everyone in college journalism is struggling.

One student teared up when she spoke reverently of her adviser and not wanting to disappoint him, but feeling so overwhelmed that she was worried that’s all she was — a disappointment. Other students deeply regretted missed opportunities and talked about spiraling into thoughts of what might have happened had they just pursued some angle over the last two years, which they simply didn’t feel up to at the time.

Meanwhile, their advisers (many of whom are also professors) spoke of a marked difference in their students this semester. They are less engaged and less ambitious — and advisers don’t necessarily blame them. They just aren’t sure what to do to get the fire back in their students’ bellies. Worse yet, what happens if professors and advisers lower certain standards in the interest of empathy, but end up doing the students a major disservice in the long run?

The irony is that students and professionals were clearly excited and energized by being in person and convening with like-minded people. The adviser happy hour was a highlight, and I saw many students actually leaning forward in their seats in focused attention. Heads nodded along. People laughed freely. Questions were plentiful.

It was a dream crowd, in many ways, one that’s now returned to campus to face some harsh realities in their newsrooms, their dorm rooms and their bedrooms.

I’m watching with interest as this portion of our world attempts to return to normal — though I suspect that it’s never going to quite be the same as before.

What have you seen from students that gives you hope or crushes your ambitions? Do you agree with my assessment of college newsrooms in spring 2022? Do you have any ideas or practical advice? I’d love to hear from those of you who are struggling, thriving or reviving.

Know that you’re not alone. Together, we can work to make all of our lives and jobs better. Hopefully you’ll be enjoying a little time off this month, and I encourage you to be a little lazy if at all possible. Read a book that’s been on your list too long. Watch some basketball and cheer for an underdog team you’ve never heard of. Drink … more water. 🙂

Speaking of spring break — I’ll be mostly off this week so your next newsletter should arrive March 27. Happy spring and hang in there! You’re not alone.

Teachapalooza schedule is shaping up

Have you heard the news about our headliners?

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times reporters who won a Pulitzer for breaking the Harvey Weinstein scandal and jump-starting the #MeToo movement, will be Zooming in. They’ve written a companion volume to their book “She Said,” a guide for student journalists who want to pursue a career in investigative journalism — and everyone who’s coming to Teacha will get a copy.

If you’re on the fence about attending, consider my opener about the joys of meeting in person, and note that you’ll get a great free book with tons of classroom lessons. What’s left to decide? Apply now to save your seat! Of course, we are also offering a virtual version — it’s a win-win, whether you’re in person or not.

Don’t forget Diversity Across the Curriculum

Speaking of selling out, we’ve had several applicants to our customized Diversity Across the Curriculum session set the day before Teacha. Applications are due this week on March 15, so if you’ve been thinking about it, now’s the time to act. Plus, you’ll get $100 off your Teacha tuition if you attend both.

DATC teaches journalism professors practical tips and techniques to infuse their classrooms with best practices in diversity, equity and inclusion; and empowers you with the tools and communication skills to take your wisdom to the rest of your faculty for a lasting impact on curriculum.

Headlines about higher ed

Great journalism to share with your students

Diversity, equity and inclusion (employment edition!)

This week in fact checking

We still have a few spots left for Campus Correspondents to visit your classrooms this semester. Sign up for a spot here.

The Lead

This week, we featured “What student-focused outlets learned from publishing during COVID,” in which we showcased one high school, one college and one newsletter writer who produce content for students.

Subscribe to The Lead, Poynter’s weekly newsletter for student journalists, and encourage your students to do the same.

This week’s Professor’s Press Pass

We will join the rest of the world in discussing the image taken by Lynsey Addario and published in The New York Times. How do editors make tough calls around graphic images? Check out Professor’s Press Pass — just $12 a month or $100 a year for a new case study about journalism ethics and business each week. It’s perfect for your college classroom.

One last thing

The meme assignment.

Resources for educators

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.
Donate
Tags:
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

More News

Back to News