Collegiate press corps

Session Convenor:

Sue Ellen Christian, Western Michigan University; Joe Grimm, Michigan State University

Session Reporter:

Joe Grimm

Discussion Participants:

Sonya Bernard-Hollins, editor, Community Voices, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Jeff Brown, All Headline News, Wellington, Fla.; Eugene Daniel III, student, Elon University, Marietta GA; Marin Heinritz, faculty, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Mich.; John Kotarski, Ann Arbor; Helen Fu, Citizen Media Law Project, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University; Alicia Nails, director, Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, Wayne State University; Marquis Herring, Wayne State University, 2010; Daniel Wallace, diversity and community relations intern at Daimler Financial Services, recently multimedia journalist with Rochester Democrat & Chronicle; Ruth Seymour, assistant professor, Oakland University; Geoff Samek, Sacramento Press, Sacramento, Calif.; Andrew Humphrey, reporter, WDIV-TV

The organizers recruited participants who teach journalism at Michigan colleges and universities, as well as the technologists, business and legal people who can help make it happen.

The idea in one sentence is that student-produced journalism could fill gaps left by the loss of local, professional news staffs with reports published online.

We quickly concluded that there is not enough coverage by college and universities to reach all communities, so this can not be a continuous, wall-to-wall network.

The journalism will need to meet a higher bar than the mere submission of content. Sacramento Press has, in the past, used extensive peer editing effectively, letting a professional editor give the final word on more content. They have used as many as three rounds of peer edits with free software such as Google Docs. Final call on some suggested edits went to the writers. Professors noted that this might present some challenges for grading — or opportunities to grade students on both writing and edits.

Content includes writing, audio, video, photos, graphics and maps, in keeping with what J-schools should b teaching and with all the ways people like to receive news.

Samek said the project could be a good way to close the “town and gown” dichotomy in some communities. (Grimm said he should add a community meeting for students to his fall semester in public affairs reporting.)

Close monitoring of website metrics would make teaching more relevant to real-world experiences. Should it factor into grades? Potential trouble if popularity surpasses academic evaluation.

Students prefer to write about the subjects that are of greater interest to them: the arts, entertainment and sports. And we have noticed that local meetings are lightly attended.

Ruth Seymour said she would like to student writing include the service-learning components now familiar on some college campuses. She sees it as an entry point into communities. We talked some about the role of community journalism in this project.

We talked about incorporating some game mechanics into college journalism. That could include different levels that the journalists can achieve and points for doing certain things.

We talked about the Creative Commons rights that can be claimed by content creators. We noted that minors can’t currently license content with a parent. Helen Fu said after the session that the Berkman Center is willing to work with us on legal issues.

It was suggested that the community should have access to the site and be able to add content to it, turning it into a true community forum. A calendar that the community can populate would be a good feature. This dimension turns it from a solely school project into a forum that may enjoy some greater legal protection.

Jeff Brown said that All Headline News, which began as an aggregator and moved into providing some original content, is interested in setting up relationships with college in which the instructors determine what can go on the wire. All Headline News would provide the infrastructure and return some money in the form of micro-payments for stories that attract audience.

We plan to keep in touch after the JTM-Detroit conference in part to support each other and share idea and to perhaps link together hyperlocal news sites created by college J-students in service to communities that are losing local news coverage.

Joe Grimm
Visiting editor in residence
School of Journalism
Michigan State University

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