August 7, 2022

Shhh. I’m not really here.

I’m just popping into your inbox to whisper, “hi! how was your summer? are you ready for fall? me either!’”

I’ve slowly been dialing back in, collecting resources for you and thinking about what you might need for an engaging, authentic semester. No one knows that better than you.  So this is a reminder to tell me if you need anything from Poynter to start this fall. Hit this link to reply directly to me — I’ll do my best to fortify your heat shield as you attempt re-entry into academia. (Some examples: I need more DEI story examples! I need good video clips of investigations! I need more queso! OK, that last one might be tough, and I mean really, when have we ever had enough queso?)

Next week I’ll have a great roundup of Poynter resources along with my usual fare. Until then, here are 10 story ideas for assignments or student media. I hope this helps as you finalize your semester plans.

Abortion

The 2022 midterms

  • What races are there, and what are the implications for local, state and national politics?
  • What is the deadline for students to register to vote?
  • Have you outlined for them how and where to do so, and editorialized about how it’s important?
  • Do they understand the difference between registering at their campus address and their permanent address? How should they decide which address to use?
  • Do you have a voter’s guide planned?
  • Will you have access to politicians? (Here’s some interesting background.)
  • Have you checked in with local Republicans to see if your students will be allowed to cover them?
  • Any chance the local Democrats have anything to say about all this? Will they follow suit?

The campus housing crunch

  • The national media is abuzz with both the national housing shortage and campus shortages. Does your university have a similar problem?
  • What do housing officials say they plan to do about it?
  • Can you find students impacted either by a lack of on-campus availability or searching for off-campus housing?
  • Are you providing resources for students to help them find affordable housing — do they know where to look?
  • How are private and off-campus apartments faring — are they at capacity, or planning more builds?
  • Do local plans reflect the national plunge in new home builds?
  • Are there conversations about turning to private partnerships? What might the pros and cons be of those decisions?

Monkeypox

  • Students might feel empowered to report on this latest health threat, applying the lessons they’ve learned from COVID-19. This might be a great area to let the students have a big hand in planning a project vs. handing out an assignment. One word of caution: Misinformation about monkeypox can and will impact LGBTQ people and communities. The media should work to avoid having a role in stigmatizing people that would discourage them from seeking vaccination, testing and treatment.

Efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Many universities promised changes since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. Did they deliver?
  • Round up documents related to statements, task forces, committees and the like, then check in their progress. Were promises kept?
  • How do stakeholders like students, faculty and staff from traditionally marginalized backgrounds feel about the action and results, if any?

Rush

  • #BamaRush is back, and it’s shortsighted to imagine it’s just a Deep South tradition.
  • There are a lot of ways to handle reporting on Greek life, from lightheaded photo essays on Bid Day to deep dives on equity and hazing.
  • It’s worth talking about coverage on every level, however, as Greek life dominates the social and political scene at many American universities.

Inflation

  • How has it impacted your campus?
  • What are students saying?
  • What kinds of costs are going up, from tuition to protein bars at the student convenience store?
  • Another great opportunity for explainers, and remember to resist the urge to oversimplify the complicated reasons for inflation — don’t just talk to one economics professor but three.

Critical race theory

  • Where does this stand at your university?
  • Are there state efforts to monitor teachers’ and professors’ speech and curriculum?
  • What does your faculty government say? The administration?
  • The CRT Forward Tracking Project should be helpful.

The mental health of athletes

  • They might not be OK. There have been several high-profile stories in the national media about athletes who died by suicide and others who considered or attempted suicide.
  • How are universities handling this threat, both for athletes and for non-athletes? Remember to refer to Reporting on Suicide early and often.

Indigenous populations

  • Heartbreaking and harrowing accounts of the treatment of indigenous people in Canada have rocked that country, leading even the Pope to call what happened “genocide.”
  • Students would be wise to familiarize themselves and report on the indigenous people who lived on and around campus before there was a campus.
  • Here’s an LA Times example and here’s a site that builds such maps.
  • Don’t forget to converse with those communities before, during and after reporting.

One last thing

Look at how this reporter found ALL the people in the story. It’s fun and funny but through the veins of this story flows an admirable tirelessness and tenacity.

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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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