Friday, August 31, 2007

Seeking Story of the Month submissions

Did your paper do something over the summer or for the start of the school year that you’re particularly proud of? Do you have a recent story (text, slideshow, photo, video, multimedia, whatever) that’s innovative, in-depth, investigative or in some other way inspiring?

Send it to us!

The Student Newspaper Survival Blog is seeking submissions for its Story of the Month feature. This is not a “best of” contest. It’s a way to spotlight work being done by student newspapers that other student journalists can learn from. In addition to showing the piece, we’ll run a How I Got That Story column from the creator(s). Stories needn't be text -- they can be photo stories, video stories, etc.

The first Story of the Month was Stu Woo’s profile for the Brown Daily Herald of Reade Seligmann, one of the Duke lacrosse players who was acquitted of sexually assaulting a stripper invited to a team party. Woo showed great enterprise in tracking down Seligmann, who was planning to transfer to Brown in the fall, and landing an interview. Woo got off work early at his internship with the Providence Journal to drive down to New York City and interview Seligmann. He wrote an in-depth, compelling narrative. Woo shared how he got the story with Student Newspaper Survival Blog readers, providing inspiration for other student journalists.

To submit a Story of the Month candidate, send an e-mail to with a link, PDF, JPG, GIF or TIFF file. Please include a 200- to 500-word statement explaining how the story came together. Deadline for this month is September 4, 2007 for work published in August.

In addition to the Story of the Month, the Student Newspaper Survival Blog aims to highlight innovative features, ethical challenges, special projects, experiments in journalism, legal issues, etc., related to college journalism. Help us keep up on the latest by e-mailing with your tips.

Small newspaper follows a disaster

When staff members of The Conquistador, the biweekly student newspaper at Dodge City Community College in Kansas, put out the last newspaper of the spring semester they had no idea they'd be missing what is likely to be the biggest story of their college journalism careers.

On May 4, a tornado virtually obliterated Greensburg, Kansas, just 46 miles from the Dodge City campus.

The newspaper doesn't have a Web site yet, so it had no place to post stories. (Adviser Lionel Tipton says the staff is planning to launch a Web edition soon.)

The tiny staff pledged to follow the story when they got back to school. This week
The Conquistador offered a comprehensive report on the aftermath of the disaster.

"I am very proud of the way my two students handled this story and pictures," Tipton wrote in an email praising the efforts of Editor in Chief Mallory Anderson and photographer Josh Roesener. "Five of our 12 pages are devoted to Greensburg. The editor also addressed her feelings in a sidebar commentary piece."

The staff snagged an interview with the busy city administrator and wrote about nursing professors from the college who volunteered after the tornado hit. The paper also offered a look at the college's plan for a tornado, including a map of shelter sites.

"Of the 10 to 12 on our staff, only a few have any prior experience," Tipton says. "So for them to undertake this package was huge, in my opinion. They performed their duties without question or complaint, and the final product was quite satisfying."

Are you proud of something your staff has done? Tell us about it by sending an email to

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Covering Suicide

An adviser on the College Media Advisers listserv recently posed a question about how student newspapers should treat suicide.

This passage is taken from The Student Newspaper Survival Guide

Deciding whether and how to cover a suicide is one of the most common and most poignant ethical dilemmas a student editor may face. And unlike with many other ethical issues, looking to the professional press isn’t necessarily instructive. Most professional newspapers don’t cover suicide unless:
• it causes a public spectacle (a jump onto a freeway streaming with cars, for example, or after a standoff with police)
• it’s committed in connection with a homicide, kidnapping or other serious crime
• it involves a public figure

Student newspapers, however, frequently do cover suicides of students or faculty, particularly if they happen on campus. Why? For one thing, the suicide of a member of the campus community often has significant impact on a large segment of the school--an entire academic department or a whole dorm may feel traumatized by the event.

For another, suicide is a major social problem among college students (it’s the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, after accidents and homicide, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and many student newspapers use a suicidal incident as a news peg for an educational piece about the problem.

A year after a freshman at Northwestern University killed himself in his dorm room, for example, The Daily Northwestern ran a seven-part series on mental health. The series, “State of Mind,” looked at eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and mental health care, as well as depression and suicide.

“There were all these issues that didn’t find a place in our regular news coverage,” says Elaine Helm, who worked on the series in the fall of 2003 and became editor-in-chief of the newspaper the following year. “We wanted to find an appropriate way to reflect on those issues and find a context for this one incident that touched so many lives.” The series won several awards, including one from the National Mental Health Association.

When deciding whether to cover a suicide in your own paper, ask yourself these questions:
• Was the suicide committed on campus?
• Was the suicide committed in a public place, such as a park or downtown street?
• Was the student or faculty member prominent on your campus?
• Does the suicide appear to be part of a trend?
• Will coverage of the suicide help the campus community in any way?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, your newspaper may decide it’s important to run a story.

Some newspapers also consider the family’s wishes when deciding whether to write about a suicide. Journalists rarely contemplate the impact their stories will have on family members, but in the case of a suicide, editors may want to take into account how open the family is to talking about the circumstances of the death.

Another factor to consider is the risk of “suicide contagion” or copycat suicides. Researchers have found that suicides tend to increase when a particular incident gets a lot of media play. This copycat phenomenon is particularly evident when coverage is sensational and when media stories highlight the mode of suicide. For example, in the year after a student fell to his death at New York University, four other students there took their lives the same way.

The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma offers these guidelines for covering suicide.

MTV to air series on high school newspaper

MTV has given the green light to “The Paper,” an eight-part series following the staff of a real high school newspaper.

The unscripted series will follow students working on The Circuit, the award-winning newspaper at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla. The series is scheduled to air in the winter of 2008.

"Reality shows are so often stupid,” Cypress Bay journalism teacher Rhonda Weiss told The Miami Herald. “These kids are really bright. It's nice to see the focus on these kids,"

Executive producer Marshall Eisen told Variety that MTV is avoiding the phrase "reality series" for this show. Rather than fabricating a drama, the producers found a high school newsroom and filmed it. "It's more of a docu-series, where we're talking about the lives of our participants," Variety quotes Eisen as saying. "And it's just a great way to get inside high school."

"The Paper" is produced by MTV News and Docs, the "serious" branch of MTV.

The Miami Herald has an audio interview with Amanda Lorber, editor in chief of The Circuit.

We'd love to hear from the staff of The Circuit about their MTV experience. Post a comment below.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Northern Star "flooded with news"

Four days before the Northern Star, the student newspaper at Northern Illinois University, was planning to roll out its new 24-hour news operation and redesigned Web site, the paper faced one of its biggest stories in years: a severe storm followed by a flood that forced the campus to close.

The newspaper staff was in a training session for the revamped news site Thursday afternoon when the story broke.

"Assignments went out and reporters snapped into action," Managing Editor Michael Swiontek wrote in an opinion blog about the newspaper's response to the story. "It was what an exciting newsroom can be — scrambling to relay horrible news."

The paper managed to post three news updates on its Web site before its server went down Friday, Swiontek wrote. But the site was back up Monday, with lots of follow-up stories on the flood.

"We got on-the-job training," Swiontek wrote in his blog. "Last week’s news was perfect practice for a great semester of covering breaking news."

The Northern Star's new Web site is a model for college papers around the country. The staff has pledged to cover news as it breaks, putting stories online first and posting updates on major stories throughout the day.

"Our first and foremost priority now is the Web site," Online Editor Justin Smith wrote in a column about the revamped Web site.

In addition, the newspaper is beefing up its coverage with new media enhancements -- blogs, photo slideshows, Podcasts, maps, charts and other graphics. (In case you're wondering what the old site looked like you can see it on this post.)

If you're looking for inspiration, watch for the Northern Star.

And if you're a Northern Star staffer we'd love to hear more about the revamped, re-energized site. Post a comment here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Princeton Review ranks college newspapers

We may not agree with the rankings or the methods, but The Princeton Review has come out with its annual list of “best” college newspapers. The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill took the top spot.

The rankings are based on surveys asking 120,000 students at 366 top colleges to rate their schools in dozens of categories and report on their campus experiences. In addition to Best College Newspaper, categories include Best Classroom Experience (Reed College ranked #1), Most Beautiful Campus (Sweet Briar College), Most Liberal Students (Warren Wilson College), Most Conservative Students (Thomas Aquinas College), Biggest Frat & Sorority Scene (DePauw University), Top Party School (West Virginia University), and Stone-Cold Sober School (Brigham Young University).

The rankings are published in the 2008 edition of The Princeton Review's annual college guide Best 366 Colleges and online at

One thing to keep in mind: The survey only polled students at the “best” 366 colleges. My university, San Francisco State University, and thousands of others aren’t even in the running.

The Princeton Review came up with the college newspaper rankings based on the survey question “How popular is the newspaper?”

Not exactly scientific.

That said, here are the Princeton Review’s “best” newspapers by rank:

1. The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2. Yale Daily News, Yale University
3. The Daily Pennsylvanian, University of Pennsylvania
4. The Hilltop, Howard University
5. The Red and Black, University of Georgia
6. The Diamondback, University of Maryland-College Park
7. The Harvard Crimson, Harvard University
8. The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University
9. The Daily Mississippian, University of Mississippi
10. The Daily Collegian, Penn State-University Park
11. The State News, Michigan State University
12. The Daily Reveille, Louisiana State University
13. Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University at Bloomington
14. The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University
15. The Duke Chronicle, Duke University
16. The Daily Cardinal, University of Wisconsin-Madison (or do they mean the competing Badger Herald?)
17. The Daily Texan, University of Texas at Austin
18. The Daily Orange, Syracuse University
19. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida
20. The Battalion, Texas A&M University-College Station

Friday, August 24, 2007

Student Newspapers Around the World: Gair Rhydd

Ever wonder what student newspapers are like in other parts of the world? I do, so I've started poking around on the Internet in search of English-language papers in other countries. I thought I'd share what I find with a new occasional feature, Student Newspapers Around the World.

One of my new favorites is Gair Rhydd, the weekly student newspaper at Cardiff University. The paper serves a community of 25,000 students and 5,000 faculty in the center of Wales' capital city and it has a sophisticated, cosmopolitan tone. Gair rhydd means "Free Word" in Welsh, and the paper has a strong tradition of independence.

The paper's Web site is clear and easy to navigate, with special sections for Science & Environment, Jobs & Money, Media, Politics, Health, as well as the usual sports, opinion, A&E and news sections. There's even a special section, Taf Od, written in Welsh. The paper also has a lively letters section.

Gair Rhydd's magazine Quench, offers a somewhat lighter, brighter look at Cardiff University life.

Gair Rhydd clearly takes its watchdog role seriously; it has a special Investigations section. The newspaper has done investigative reports on inadequate access for disabled students, identity theft and legislation allowing universities to spy on students.

Gair Rhydd has been on summer hiatus since June. We look forward to seeing new content up on the Web site soon. We wish our student newspaper friends in Wales all the best for the coming school year.

Want to suggest newspaper for us to highlight in Student Newspapers Around the World? Post a comment here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Student editor responds to The Loop

Bill Kuchman, editor in chief of The Cardinal Courier at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, writes in response to our post about The Loop, a new Web site for college students in the Rochester, New York area launched by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Kuchman has been one of the students working on The Loop since the project began in May.

I'd like to address some of the concerns that you brought up on the Student Newspaper Survival Blog, as I feel that I'm in a unique position being the only staffer on The Loop who currently serves as a college newspaper editor in chief.

I was hired to be a part of the initial group of students to work on The Loop. From my over three months working there, I can assure other college newspapers that the content on the site (for the most part) won't infringe on the territory of college newspapers. Believe me, as an editor in chief myself, there was no way that I would let The Loop move in on what college newspapers cover.

When you look at the stories on The Loop, you'll see that they bring in a wider audience and write about issues from a Rochester standpoint, instead of just a singular campus standpoint. For example, if St. John Fisher College's president were to resign, the Courier would cover it as just a news event from Fisher's campus. The Loop would bring in issues involving other campus presidents and recent changes in administrations. This is something that as a college newspaper, we don't have the resources to do, and frankly, isn't what our readership is interested in.

When it comes to staff, I am confident that this issue will resolve itself over time. Fisher's student on The Loop for the fall isn't even a member of the Courier. We at the Courier also have rules and guidelines built into our staff requirements and ethics policy regarding conflict of interest. If the issue of a member of our senior staff taking a job at The Loop were to arise, this is something that we'd address based on these policies. I cannot speak for other papers, but I am highly confident that the Courier has the experience and the understanding of proper journalistic boundaries that will be sufficient to guide us when working with The Loop.

In terms of advertising, we haven't suffered any loss of sponsors - we actually continue to add new accounts. Many of our advertisers have been with us for several years and understand the effectiveness of advertising in a college newspaper, especially a proven product like the Cardinal Courier.

I hope that this will resolve some of the concerns in regards to The Loop. If anyone would like to further discuss this issue with me, I'd be more than happy to talk to them.


William R Kuchman
Cardinal Courier Media Executive Editor
Cardinal Courier Editor in Chief
Class of 2008
St. John Fisher College

Post your comments here

Integrated college media sites

There’s been a lot of discussion at college media conventions and on the College Media Advisers listserv about what we should do to compete with sites like BigLickU, and The Loop that target our readers and advertisers.

Before we start trying to reinvent the wheel, let’s look at some college media sites that already take an integrated approach.

One of the oldest and yet still among the best is bruinwalk, a campus portal for UCLA. In addition to providing links to The Daily Bruin, UCLA TV, UCLA radio and several campus magazines, it offers social and academic networking, a campus calendar, professor reviews, student-to-student book trading, online file storage, and a marketplace of goods and services.

The site is run by Student Media UCLA and governed by a communications board representing a broad cross-section of the campus community, including undergraduate and graduate students, the administration, faculty, alumni and the media professions. According to the bruinwalk About page, the board “is entirely self-supporting. It receives no registration fees or other forms of public support. All of its revenues come from advertising sales in the media.”

Amazingly, it’s been around since 1998, long before Facebook and MySpace!

Another one to look at is InsideVandy at Vanderbilt University. In addition to offering news, features, commentary, photos, videos and other content produced by Vanderbilt student media, it allows members of the Vanderbilt community to create content and interact with one another.

"InsideVandy is built for community participation," the site explains on its About page. "Use it to debate, discuss and connect. Start a blog, post your photos, submit items to the community calendar. Comment on other people's content and create some of your own."

Though not as extensive, the Northern Star has long gone beyond the typical student newspaper Web site with a dining guide, a housing guide and free online marketplace. The Northern Star is also doing some neat stuff with video.

Is your college media organization doing something innovative? What other sites do you look to as models? Tell us about them by posting a comment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sex column writing tips

Student newspaper advisers tend to groan when editors decide to launch a sex column, but the truth is these popular features can be fun and even educational without descending into the raunchy.

The key to a good sex column is research—of the computer/library/interviewing variety, not between the sheets. There are lots of great sources of information on the Web and on many college campuses.
Here are some tips for putting together a responsible and helpful, yet fun sex column:

Report thoroughly. Scout for studies, read books on sexuality, interview experts (scientific researchers and therapists, not just the Casanova on the fourth floor of your dorm). A number of universities have sexuality research centers on campus (see resources below).

Be inclusive. Remember that your readers aren’t all heterosexuals with the same values and sexual practices.

Don’t be judgmental. Your column should be respectful of all types of people, from transsexuals and swingers to avowed virgins.

Put it in an appropriate place. The best location for a sex and/or relationships column is a health/fitness page. If your newspaper doesn't have one, find a place in the features or lifestyle section. Though the column may be the writer's opinion, it does not belong in the opinion section.

Use clear language. Don’t assume everyone has the same definition of “getting it on,” “going down” and other slang terms. Stick to the specific and recognizable.

For examples of well-researched, responsible sex columns see The Kinsey Confidential, a syndicated column that runs in student newspapers around the country. The column is produced by The Kinsey Institute Sexuality Information Service for Students.

Sex information sites
These sites are good sources for information and story ideas.

National Sexuality Resource Center

Society for Human Sexuality

Kinsey Institute Sexuality Information for Students

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

The Center for Sex Research at California State University Northridge

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality

Alan Guttmacher Institute

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States

For more information about writing a sex column see pages 50-51 of The Student Newspaper Survival Guide.

College OTR enters college media fray

Here's another alternative to traditional college media: College OTR (On the Record).

OTR describes itself as "a new network of campus-specific blogs, written by students, for students, making sure that whatever happens on campus goes 'On The Record.' Think of us as your campus paper on crack -- quicker, funnier, and better-looking (even though we may be missing a few teeth)."

To date OTR includes bloggers from Boston U., Claremont, Cornell, GWU, Harvard, James Madison U, Northwestern, NYU, Penn State, Purdue, Stanford, Syracuse, Tufts, Vanderbilt, Vassar, Wesleyan, Yale and the universities of California (Berkeley and San Diego) Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri (Columbia), North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (Madison). The site, which is still in Beta mode, is planning to officially launch this fall.

Each school has its own home page like this:

The site is actively recruiting (according to, student bloggers are paid $500 per semester).

Because it's not regional, I don't see this as a threat to college newspapers in the way BigLickU, and The Loop are. It's hard to imagine these folks stealing our advertisers or even our readers in any serious way.

And from what I've seen of the content so far, I don't think we have to worry about our best and brightest staffers fleeing our newspapers to go work for College OTR. This site seems to specialize in unsubstantiated rumor, writing without reporting, goofy photo illustrations and not only anonymous sources but anonymous reporters.

Some examples:
* GWU: More Good Places for Hooking Up, Now with a Sexy Risk of Getting Caught

* University of Florida: Your boyfriend sucks... And apparently your best friend does too

Still, College OTR could beat campus newspapers to the punch on stories.

It's something for college media folks to keep our eye on--if only for lessons in what not to do.

What do YOU think of College OTR? Post a comment!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Missouri Miner: Budget cut=censorship

The Missouri Miner, the student newspaper at the University of Missouri-Rolla, is threatening to sue the university for violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, saying budget cuts to the paper constitute illegal censorship.

Editor in Chief Christopher Stryker and former editor in chief and Advertising Director Michele Martin, sent a letter to the university Monday, according to Rolla Daily News today. Accompanying the letter was a legal opinion from the Student Press Law Center, supporting the Miner's argument that the funding cut amounted to censorship.

Read the background on the case from the SPLC.

We'd love to hear more about the case from The Missouri Miner. Please post comments here.

Another invasion on college media turf

Watch out, student newspapers. Here's another effort by a professional news organization to reach out to college students--and steal your readers. This one is called The Loop and it's aimed at college students in the Rochester, New York area.

The Loop is a partnership of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and seven area colleges: the State University of New York schools at Brockport and Geneseo, St. John Fisher College, Nazareth College, Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College. There are plans to expand to others.

The Rochester area has 80,000 college students attending 19 schools, according to The Loop.

The site, which formally debuts today on the Web, is largely staffed by students at those colleges. It will include blogs, news articles, galleries, a calendar, online forums and other features.

It's similar to BigLickU in the Roanoke, Virginia area and Swocol in Ohio.

We'd love to hear from The Lamron at SUNY Geneseo, The Stylus at SUNY Brockport, The Cardinal Courier at St. John Fisher College, The Monroe Doctrine (great name!) at Monroe Community College, The Gleaner at Nazareth College, The Beacon at Roberts Wesleyan College, The Campus Times at the University of Rochester and other college newspapers in the area.

How do you feel about this new site? Are you collaborating with it? Are you worried about losing readers to The Loop? What are you doing to compete? Post a comment here or send an e-mail message to

You can read more about The Democrat and Chronicle's plans for The Loop here.

My previous post about is here.

Welcoming new readers

It's kind of like a blind date.

You really want to make a good impression. You want to sound friendly but not too eager, committed but not too serious, funny but not offensive.

That’s the art of writing the editor’s welcome note for your first issue of the semester.

You sit down to write it, but what do you really want to say? How can you communicate your passion for journalism without sounding corny? How do you tell readers you really want them to read the newspaper without sounding desperate?

Here are some ideas for writing your editor's welcome note.

* Explain Changes. Introduce new features, new staff, new design elements. If you’re launching a recurring feature, such as a weekly sex column or regular profile or a daily podcast, describe it here. Discuss why you’re making these changes.

* Promote your Web site. Discuss how you’ll be making new efforts this year to integrate online and newspaper and possibly other media, such as video, social networking, podcasting (you are, aren’t you?).

* Provide transparency. Explain how your editorial board works, how people can submit letters to the editors and guest columns, how to notify you about a story.

* Share your enthusiasm. You and your staff are excited about the new semester, right? Show it.

* Reach out to your readers. Explain that your stories are only as good as your sources, that you need them to tell you what’s happening on campus.

* Consider a video welcome. Why type “Hello,” when you can say it? Editors at The South End, the student newspaper of Wayne State University, tried this video welcome message last year when they launched a blog/news Web site hybrid. The production values are a little funky, but it does present a model for a different kind of communication with readers.

Some examples of editor’s welcome notes:
The Crimson White
University of Alabama

Arizona Daily Wildcat
University of Arizona

The BG News
Bowling Green University

The Daily Vidette

Illinois State University

The Telescope
Palomar College

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Diversify your newsroom

Does your college newspaper staff look similar to your campus? Does your staff represent a range of ethnic, racial and religious groups, as well as political perspectives?

It’s widely acknowledged that a diverse staff helps a newspaper cover a multicultural community. Good professional newspapers go to great lengths to ensure their staffs reflect their communities. And yet on many college campuses, the newspapers don’t adequately reflect the diversity of the campus communities they serve.

In a study of college newspapers in the Southeast Journalism Conference published in the Newspaper Research Journal in 2004, Kathleen Woodruff Wickham found that “student newspapers are overwhelmingly white with minority percentages falling below campus percentages.” She found that white editors and reporters accounted for 83.2 percent of staffers at the 41 student papers studied, compared to a campus-wide white population of 65.1 percent. Minority editors and reporters constituted 16.6 percent of newspaper staffers compared to a student population that was 34.9 percent minority. (Interestingly, the study found that the staffs of college newspapers were more diverse than the professional newspapers in the region.)

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has set a goal that the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide will equal the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025. Student newspapers should have a similar goal.

So what can you do to diversify your staff? Here are some suggestions:

Form a diversity committee. Charge this committee with coming up with ideas to diversify the staff. The committee could also evaluate newspaper coverage and review the paper’s code of ethics. Make sure the committee itself is as diverse as possible.

Target your recruiting. While you want to get staffers from all over campus, try to focus particularly on students of diverse backgrounds. That could mean posting fliers and sending out recruiting messages to ethnic and religious groups on campus and making announcements in particular classes (such as ethnic studies and gay and bisexual literature classes and classes specifically for foreign students).

Reach out to minority groups on campus. Invite African-American, Latino, Asian-American, American Indian, Muslim, Jewish, LGBT and other student groups on campus to submit columns and op-ed pieces to the paper. Once you build strong relationships with campus groups, individuals in them might feel more comfortable joining the staff.

Work with minority journalism programs. If your journalism or mass communications department has a high school minority journalism program or minority recruiting program, try to work with them to create a recruiting pipeline to your newspaper.

Identify promising recruits. Keep an eye out for individual students with promise--the guy in your African American Studies class who wrote that moving essay, the photographer who shot those great photos of the Gay Pride Day celebration on display in the student union.

Don’t forget political diversity. If your newspaper staff is overwhelmingly liberal, invite some political conservatives to get involved (and vice versa).

Host inspiring speakers. Invite professional minority journalists to speak to your staff and open the events to other students on campus.

Don’t pigeonhole people. Don’t assign all the stories about African Americans to the black reporters or expect the lesbian reporter to cover LGBT Pride Day. Spread stories around. However, minority students may well come up with stories about their ethnic groups that other students wouldn’t have thought of. If they want to cover such stories, they should.

Train for diversity. Plan a staff workshop or even a series of workshops on covering different communities, including ethnic and racial minorities, people with disabilities, religious groups, etc. Invite leaders of ethnic, racial, religious, disability and political groups to offer advice on covering their communities.

Do you have other ideas? Has your newspaper succeeded in diversifying its staff? Post a comment below.

Diversity resources
Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education --MIJE helps the nation's news media reflect America's diversity in staffing, content and business operations. The institute’s Web site has lots of great resources.

Good Ideas in Newspaper Diversity--A report from the Freedom Forum that compiles tips from winners of and nominees for the Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership.

Poynter Institute--The Poynter Institute Web site has a terrific collection of articles on diversity that you can use to train your staff and help diversify your newsroom.

News Watch Diversity Style Guide--This invaluable style guide, which is periodically updated, offers guidance on writing about people with disabilities and of different races, ethnicities and religions. It helps journalists avoid stereotypes and errors.

American Society of Newspaper Editors
--The diversity section of the ASNE site includes the annual newsroom employment census for professional papers, as well as articles and reports on diversity.

Society for Professional Journalists
--SPJ’s Diversity Toolbox offers essays and links to resources that will help you broaden the perspectives and voices in your work.

National Center on Disability and Journalism-- This journalism education organization offers tips for journalists on interviewing people with disabilities.

Asian American Journalists Association

National Association of Black Journalists

National Association of Hispanic Journalists

Native American Journalists Association

National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association

Unity: Journalists of Color

Friday, August 17, 2007

Careers: Journalism job market weak

The job market for graduates of journalism and mass communications programs in the United States remains relatively weak, according to a survey of 2006 grads.

The survey is conducted annually by the University of Georgia’s James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research.

"Graduates of U.S. journalism and mass communication programs confronted a weakened job market in 2006 and early 2007," Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center and professor of journalism in UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said in statement about the report.

Some stats from the survey:

* Seventy-six percent of 2006 journalism and mass communication bachelor’s degree recipients had at least one job offer on graduation, comparable to the figure for 2005 grads. About 72 percent of master’s degree recipients had at least one job offer on graduation, also comparable to the previous year.

* By October 31, 2006, about five months after graduate, 64 percent of the previous spring's graduates held a full-time job; 12 percent held a part-time job.

* Only half of the journalism and mass communication bachelor’s degree recipients with a job in communication were working a 40-hour week. A quarter reported working between 41-50 hours per week.

* For women the market remained relatively unchanged from the previous year but it was weaker for men.

* Student who are members of ethnic and racial minority groups had a harder time finding jobs than white graduates.

* Four in ten graduates of journalism and mass communication graduates with a job in communication reported that at least part of their duties involved writing or editing for the Web, an increase over the previous year

* Median salaries for graduates increased by about $1,000 between the 2005 and 2006 surveys -- just enough to keep up with inflation.

You can download the report here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

MTV seeks college sex columnists

Attention: college sex columnists!

mtvU, MTV's college and university network, is looking for undergraduate campus sex columnists for a new series with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

"Ideally we are looking for deeply thoughtful, highly engaging, cogent writers who are hopefully going more in-depth in their columns or who have strong points of view about what is burbling on their campus," says Caroline Kim, an associate producer for mtvU.

To participate, students must be sex columnists for their college papers. Those selected will work as on-camera field correspondents.

The network is interested in assembling a diverse group of students for these positions. "The overwhelming majority of student sex columnists are white women so anyone outside of this is great," Kim says. "We are trying to get students in all different parts of the country at different types of schools (i.e., large state schools and small colleges) as well, and I am currently trying to find a student in the deep South."

Interested? Send an e-mail to Caroline Kim at, telling about yourself and why you would be a good correspondent for a show about sexual health and relationships. Be sure to include your name, school, year and a writing sample if you have one.

Just think, you could be the next Dr. Ruth.

More competition for college newspapers

News Flash:
Cox Ohio Publishing is launching a Web site for students at the region's college campuses, according to the Springfield News-Sun.

"We talked to hundreds of students and found out that there's no single place to find what's happening on and around campus," Katie Wedell, content producer for, told the Springfield, Ohio newspaper. The Web site is targeting students at the University of Dayton, Wright State University, Sinclair Community College and Miami University in Oxford.

But what does this mean for The Flyer News at the University of Dayton, The Guardian at Wright State University, The Clarion at Sinclair Community College and The Miami Student at Miami University in Oxford?


Will Miami University students spend as much time reading The Miami Student when they've got another site to get youth-oriented news and information about the area? Will advertisers be as likely to buy ads in the individual college papers when they have a Web site targeting students at all four colleges in the region?

This comes just one year after Gannett bought the FSView and Florida Flambeau at Florida State University and MTV bought College Publisher.

Faced with declining readership and plummeting profits, professional media organizations are trying to invade our turf. Are we in college media going to stand by and let this happen? What's next? Is The New York Times going to buy the Washington Square News? Is The Boston Glove going to try to lure readers away from The Harvard Crimson?

Student newspapers are facing a kind of competition we've never seen before. To survive and thrive, we've got to produce publications that are more engaging, savvier, hipper, more in touch with our readers than we've ever been.

If I were at one of the college newspapers in the area, I'd beef up my Web site, boost coverage of local entertainment and write more service articles that help students navigate college life. On top of that, I'd try to strengthen local campus coverage. I'd start the semester with a pep talk to the staff, saying the competition is on.

We've got to show those professionals who's boss.

What advice do you have for the Ohio college newspapers? Post a comment.

For more about this topic read:
"College Papers Deliver," The Baltimore Sun

"Big Media on Campus," The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Snap shots

I've been wondering for awhile about those cool little pop-up windows that appear on some Web sites and blogs like the Center for Innovation in College Media and College Media Advisers Web sites.

Well, now I know how to do it and I've added the feature to The Student Newspaper Survival Blog. It's a snap! Literally. offers these little visual previews of sites you link to. It's easy to put the feature on a blog or Web site; just follow the directions at the company's Web site.

My question for you readers is this: Do you like Snap Shots or do you find them annoying? Do they enhance your experience of this blog and others? Post a comment and let me know.

Another new development for The Student Newspaper Survival Blog: We've been added to the College Media Advisers site. Now you can read the six most recent headlines from the CMA site and instantly link to our blog. Thanks to Bill Neville and the folks at CMA for including our blog on the Web site.

Remember that you can also subscribe to the blog by email and get updates sent directly to your computer. Just type your email address in the box to the right.

Tips: Back to School Ideas

It’s that time of year again, time to plan the annual Back to School issue. While this may sound like a bore to juniors and seniors who have already worked on a couple of Back to School guides, try to think about those poor freshmen and transfer students who will hang on your every word, trying to make sense of a new campus.

Think of this issue as a precious opportunity--a chance to build relationships with a new crop of potential readers and to get reacquainted with old readers. You want to make a good first impression, sending the message that your newspaper and Web site are indispensable guides to your campus.

Think, too, about how you can convey information in new ways. Here are some possibilities for invigorating your Back to School edition.

Make yourself useful. Compile a survival guide that will be an invaluable resource to new students. The guide should be attractively packaged in the form of a pull-out insert, two-page spread or even the whole issue of the newspaper. You want this to be something students save and refer back to. A useful back-to-school guide will have plenty of service articles that give newbies tips on where to eat, how to find housing, where to buy discount textbooks, etc.

Introduce yourself. The editor in chief should write an editorial or editor’s note welcoming students back to campus and explaining how the newspaper works. Let students know how to get involved in the paper, how to submit a press release or letter to the editor, how to get an event or issue covered by the newspaper

Go multimedia. Put together a virtual tour of your campus, showing the good, the bad and the ugly. Your public information office may well have some kind of virtual tour on its Web site, complete with sunny landscape shots and smiling faces. But you can give students a more realistic experience of college life on your campus with a video, slideshow or interactive map on your Web site. Check out this interactive map my students at Golden Gate Xpress at San Francisco State University put together at the start of last semester.

Have some fun. In its first issue of the term last year, The Technique, the student newspaper at Georgia Institute of Technology, put together an entertaining list of 99 Things to Do Before You Graduate.

Teach the lingo. Every school has its own language, complete with abbreviations and nicknames. Compile a glossary of terms and names new students should know to get around on campus.

Create a welcome podcast This could be as simple as a greeting from the editor or as complex as an audio tour of your campus that students could download onto their MP3 players and listen to as they walk around the campus. Or you could do an audio interview with the campus president or student body leader about plans for the coming year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Design: Resources for Designers

Being a designer at a college newspaper can be a lonely job. Students on the design team often come from different academic departments than the writers and editors, and sometimes it may feel like you speak a different language.

On a small paper the designer or art director may be the only one who understands fonts and visual hierarchy. Sometimes you may think, “If the editor asks me to put a 40 percent screen on a sidebar one more time I’m going to scream!”

So today, for you, the college newspaper designers of the world, we present a list of cyberspots where you can find solace, information and inspiration.

College Front Page--Consider this site your home away from home. Here you can browse pages from college newspapers around the country, including the professional-quality Indiana Daily Student and The State News at Michigan State University, which produces pages so beautiful you may just want to hang them up in your dorm room for decoration (like the one to the left). The site offers guest lectures and critiques (design and photo) by professionals, as well as forums and links to other design-oriented Web sites. But that’s not all. Designers and photographers can create personal Web pages on the site to showcase their work. College Front Page used to host monthly page design contests. The last one was April ’06, so they seem to be a thing of the past. But there’s still lots of other fresh, new stuff on the site so check it out. irreverent, wacky blog is written by Mark Friesen, a news designer at The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon. He’s kind of like Tim Harrower on Ecstasy, but he puts together some really cool stuff about design, drawing from newspapers all over the world.

Newseum--Want to see what the Los Angeles Times put on its front page today? How about the Manteca Bulletin or the Beijing News? In addition to promoting its new “interactive museum of news,” set to open in the first quarter of 2008, the Newseum Web site showcases the front pages of more than 500 newspapers from 52 countries. Most are updated daily, so you can see how different newspapers played the same big story. It’s a great place to look for inspiration.

News Page Designer--This message board allows designers at all levels (students and pros) to upload pages and get feedback from other designers. It's operated by Society for News Design members Tim Frank and Eric Kaiser. Students can share their work, get comments from the pros and get noticed.

Best Front Page Design--Brass Tacks Design, newspaper design consultants in Norfolk, Virginia, offers commentary and images on newspaper redesign projects. It’s a great place to learn about new trends in newspaper design. Be sure to check out the Before and After Gallery.

Tim Harrower--You gotta love this guy. His Newspaper Designer’s Handbook (the sixth edition just came out in July) is the bible for student newspaper designers everywhere and his Web site is pretty cool too, with features like The Design Doctor.

Society for News Design--The Web site for the professional association for news designers is packed with resources and sources of inspiration. Many of the events are open to students.

Student Society for News Design--The student chapter of SND at the Missouri School of Journalism hosts the annual College News Design Contest. Check out the 2007 winners.

News University--The online training arm of the Poynter Institute offers several free online courses on design, including Color in News Design, Converting to Tabloid, Mario Garcia on the WSJ Tabloid Design and Typography for News Design.

A cure for the summer publishing hiatus

Your college newspaper office is closed for the summer, but there's big news: the university president resigns, or a student is brutally murdered or there's a fire in the Humanities Building. What do you do?

The Johns Hopkins News-Letter has a solution: Blog it.

This summer editors at the Baltimore, MD university newspaper decided to keep readers up to date with blogs. In a May 14 letter to readers, Editor in Chief Sal Gentile introduced two new blogs with the promise they would "provide, for the first time in the history of the News-Letter, regularly updated, web-exclusive content during the summer, when the newspaper is not in print."

The two blogs are “What’s Next?" covering breakthroughs and controversies in science and technology, with an emphasis on research done at Hopkins, and “Town and Gown,” which covers news and politics about the university and the city. To their credit, the bloggers didn't wait for earth-shattering news. During the summer they covered everything from the university president's announcement on a new vision for achieving “carbon neutrality” to a price hike on soda.

So, Sal, how did the experiment go? We'd love to hear what kind of feedback you've received on the new blogs and if you have any advice for other college newspapers stuck in the summer doldrums. Leave a comment here or write to us at

Monday, August 13, 2007

Is college media behind the times?

Are college newspapers lagging behind their professional counterparts when it comes to new media? Are journalism programs failing to equip graduates with the skills they need to get a job in the industry? Are journalism students sticking to narrow, outdated ideas about the kind of journalist they want to be?

These are some of the questions discussed in a recent article, "New Media Meets Campus Media" published by The article reports on a panel discussion held Friday at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Washington, DC.

Scheduled speakers for the panel, entitled "Issues and Challenges Facing Campus Media," included Dave Wendelken and Toni B. Mehling of James Madison University; Daniel Reimold of Ohio University; and Bryan Murley of Eastern Illinois University.

Perhaps even more interesting than the article itself -- after all, journalism students and professors have been discussing these issues for years -- are the comments in response to the piece. Journalism educators, students, recent graduates, even a self-described blogomist all weigh in, and several offer interesting insights.

Check it out -- and feel free to add your own two cents, either at or here.

Podcast your world

If your student newspaper hasn’t already started podcasting, put it at the top of your to-do list for the new school year. And if you do occasional podcasts, think about new ways to use this powerful and fun medium.

Podcasts, or digital audio files published on the Web, are a great way to build user interest in your news products – online, broadcast and even print -- in an integrated media operation. You should publicize your podcast offerings in your print edition and refer back to the newspaper in your podcasts.

Among the ways to use podcasts:

News Podcasts. A number of student papers feature podcasts that recap the top stories of the day or week. One example is The Battalion Radio News, regular audio news reports from The Battalion, the independent student newspaper of Texas A&M University. Kudos to The Battalion staff for keeping up podcasts through the summer.

Sports Podcasts. Other papers offer podcasts that focus on sports coverage. Some good examples can be found at The Towerlight at Towson University.

Event Coverage. Take an audio recorder to a lecture, conference, rally or other news event and you can create a podcast of the event.

Q&As. This format works great for interviewing student government candidates, campus officials, noted visitors to campus and other newsmakers. For some examples check out Purdue University’s Exponent. The Daily Eastern News at Eastern Illinois University, where students have interviewed college sports figures, musicians, the departing university president and even a recovering methamphetamine addict.

The Arbiter at Boise State did a moving two-part interview with Vietnam veteran Tom Titus about the life and death of his son, Brandon Titus, who was the sixth soldier from Idaho killed in Iraq. Check out this and other podcasts out at The Arbiter’s extensive collection here.

Interviews with Reporters. The Oregon Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon runs an interesting “In the Newsroom” podcast featuring interviews with staff reporters and special guests about stories in the news. These not only offer the back story on issues of the day, but also create a window that allows readers to see how the newspaper works.

Group Discussions. The State Hornet at Sacramento State University has been experimenting with podcast discussions of film, sports and sex. “My favorite was a short one in which the sports editor interviewed several stars from our championship women's golf team,” adviser Holly Heyser wrote in an email to me. “It was the kind of interview that was really fun - sometimes serious, sometimes silly - in audio, but would have been lost completely in a written story.” If you want a laugh, be sure the check out the “Sex Ed(itors)” discussion of “Mistakes Women Make in Bed.”

Speaking of podcasts, the American Civil Liberties Union has extended to Oct. 4, 2007 the deadline for its Third Annual Stand Up For Freedom Contest. The contest encourages students to get creative about defending American’s civil rights by producing a video PSA or an audio podcast about how the government is abusing its power. Prizes include $2,000 for Best PSA and $1,000 for Best Podcast with additional awards for originality, production and humor. For more information see the contest Web page.

Do you have other great examples of student newspaper podcasts? Share them in a comment here or email We'll post more on podcasting later this week.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bill Moyers wants you

Veteran broadcast journalist Bill Moyers is looking for journalism students to write for The Moyers Blog, a companion Web site to the weekly PBS series Bill Moyers Journal.

Student journalists chosen for the project will hold a regular beat on the blog, covering topics such as politics, arts and culture, the media, the economy and social issues. The blog also encourages students "to cover the subjects they feel passionate about," according to the Web site. "The Moyers Blog will showcase students' work to a national audience, and will allow them to receive and respond to reader reaction."

Journalism instructors can receive assignments for students by e-mailing and putting "JStudents" in the title. Topics will also be posted at an assignments page on the Web site. In addition, journalism professors and students can submit other noteworthy student work for review.

The first assignment, due Oct. 1, 2007, will be a reflection on "Bill Moyers Joural: Buying the War," which can be viewed in its entirety online. Students are being asked to write an op-ed piece of no more than 400 words on the role of journalism in the lead up to the war. For more detailed instructions go to the assignment page.

Submissions should be about 400 words and be thoroughly sourced. Published articles will be attributed to the student, the academic adviser or professor and the journalism school, all of which should be noted on the entry.

There's no monetary compensation for work published by The Moyers Blog. However, students whose work is published will receive an autographed copy of the book Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times. And getting on The Moyers Blog would be a nice line on any student's resume.

Journalism students and professors who have questions about the blog entries can contact Diane Domondon at or

You can find out more about Bill Moyers and hear his 2001 talk to the National Press Club here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A day without technology

Could you live for a day without electronic media -- no TV, no cell phone, no iPod (or any other kind of MP3 player), no radio, no CD player, no computer, no video games?

That's the challenge Danna Walker, a professor at American University, posed to her "Understanding Mass Media" students last term. You can read her fascinating account of "The Longest Day" , which ran Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine. (If you get a dialog box asking if you are registered, don't worry. You can register for free.)

Danielle Marsh, a reporter for The Gargoyle, the student newspaper at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL, took on a similar experiment last January. Check out her first-person story about her technology-free 24 hours.

According to Brian Thompson, the newspaper's adviser. Marsh's experiment was inspired by a study on Internet addiction that the paper had reported on. "It made a good package for us that was pretty widely read by students," he wrote in a discussion on the College Media Advisers' listserv. "Might be fun for others to try, too."

Marsh's piece is a great example of how to make an engaging, readable personal feature out of a hard news story.

Monday, August 06, 2007

How He Got That Story

Story of the Month Winner Stu Wong of the Brown Daily Herald describes how he got the interview with Reade Seligmann, the Duke University lacrosse player who was acquitted of raping an exotic dancer:

About two weeks before our summer issue deadline, one of my editors called me to ask me to track down Seligmann, who had committed to Brown in May.

I didn't know where to start (I figured his lawyer would never forward the request), so I called some of my old bosses at the Chronicle of Higher Education, where I interned last fall. One of them who had been following the case suggested KC Johnson's blog, Durham Wonderland. A history professor at Brooklyn College, Johnson had pretty much the most authoritative blog on the Duke case; he's actually co-authoring a book about it.

I e-mailed Johnson, asking if he would forward an interview request to Seligmann, which kindly he did. Seligmann e-mailed me back the same day from his work account, telling me that he would love to talk to the Brown paper. I e-mailed him back a day later, asking if I could have his phone number. He quickly e-mailed me back from his account at Bear Stearns, a New York investment bank, and asked for my number instead. So I gave him mine, and he e-mailed me again, telling me that he would call me that night, which he didn't.

I e-mailed him back the next day, asking to talk to him, and he said again that he would call me that night. But he didn't, and we again bounced e-mails back and forth for a week, until he stopped e-mailing for a few days.

So finally, the Tuesday before my Saturday deadline, I e-mailed him again, telling him I needed to talk to him before the weekend. He said again that he would call me that night, but he didn't. So finally on Thursday, I asked him if I could just drive down to New York that night and meet him at a cafe. He e-mailed me back, telling me that he had a company dinner in Times Square until 8 p.m., but he could meet me at 8:30. So I suggested the Times Square Starbucks, and he said it was good.

I have an internship at the Providence Journal, so I asked my editor if I could leave early since I was planning on work on Sunday anyway. I got off around 3 p.m. and drove straight to Brooklyn Heights, where I planned to spend the night with a friend. I got caught in rush hour, but somehow didn't manage to get lost and parked in Brooklyn around 7:45 p.m. I scribbled down all my notes in my notepad on the subway (totally prepared, I was not) and read some clips I printed from the New York Times. When I arrived at 8:20, he was already there.

I knew what he looked like from all the photos/mug shots in the paper. So I greeted him, got an iced tea and sat down.

To break the ice, we started talking about Brown. I feel that was the only reason I was able to get the interview — because we were going to be students at the same college. He had declined to give interviews with many media outlets. So I took advantage of what we had in common, and it turned out great because he had many questions about the university.

I really didn't need to prod him at all in my questioning. He is a talker, and he spoke freely about everything. The only things he wouldn't talk about was how he really felt toward Mike Nifong, the Duke case prosecutor, and the woman who accused him of rape. I prodded him on details about what he did when he found out he was accused, and especially about his arrest and his time in jail. I asked him what he did to pass the time in the cell, what he remembered doing, which got him to tell me about about reading the Spanish on the walls. Whenever he mentioned something interesting (about seeing his name on the Bloomberg ticker, for instance), I tried to get him to tell me every single detail: exactly where he was sitting, whom he was with, what was going through his mind, etc.

About the lead: When the lady who asked Seligmann for the psychic reading came up to our table, I was a little flustered at first, but Seligmann totally kept his cool. It was about a minute after she left our table when I realized, Holy shit! That's my lead. Then I looked around the Starbucks and finally found her, and scribble down notes about her appearance. It was a surreal, one-in-a-million perfect-interview experience, and I am just glad I was able to recognize its significance. (I have no idea how; I was pretty scatterbrained all day.)

So that's pretty much it. I interviewed Seligmann's mom the next day during my lunch period, which is where I got some more information about her. I was lucky enough to catch the Brown lacrosse coach, Lars Tiffany, Friday evening. I spent all day Saturday writing and I have to thank my editors — as well as my former editor at the Chronicle, Brad Wolverton, who took time off a vacation to look at it — for making it as polished as it could be.

Friday, August 03, 2007

First Story of the Month Winner

I've been thinking of starting Story of the Month and Photo of the Month contests in the fall. But I saw such a good story on the Brown Daily Herald site today that I decided to start a month early.

Stu Woo of the Herald staff wrote a compelling profile of Reade Seligmann, one of the Duke Lacrosse players who was charged with and then acquitted of rape. Seligmann decided to leave Duke and transfer to Brown. The story is an excellent example of narrative writing and includes great scenes and description. Check out "Exonerated Duke suspect awaits fresh start at Brown." He also shot the environmental portrait that goes with the story.

Kudos to Stu Woo, our first Story of the Month winner!

Stu--If you're out there, send us a message about how you got the story and we'll post it on The Student Newspaper Survival Blog. If you can, send a photo of yourself, too.

Investigative Reporting for College Newspapers

One of the best ways to distinguish your student newspaper is to take on some investigative stories. Such hard-hitting stories will bring attention to your paper--and possibly even awards. Don't forget it's your job as a student newspaper to serve as watchdog for your campus. If the cafeteria is cited for health violations or a campus official is embezzling money or the university president is sleeping with students you should be telling the world.

But investigative stories don't just come out of thin air. You have to look for them and when you find them you have to be ready to report them in a thorough and responsible manner. Here are some tips to get your newspaper started on an investigative path:

1.If you don’t already have one, create an investigative team with some of your newspaper’s most experienced reporters. Pick one or two manageable projects to start with. Invite a professional investigative reporter to act as mentor for the team.

2.Look to Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. for inspiration. The Web site of the nation's leading investigative journalism organization is chock full of examples of great investigative stories. (Look in particular for student award winners.) Send a delegation to an investigative reporting conference or training workshop. (IRE. and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting each hold an annual national convention and many regional workshops throughout the year.) Have participants share what they learned in a workshop for the staff.

3. Organize a brainstorming session for editors or for the whole staff focused on investigative reporting. Have people throw out ideas around the theme “What’s not working on campus?”

4. Organize an investigative reporting workshop for your staff or regional or state college press association. The IRE Web site has information on how to do this. You might be able to collaborate with professional newspapers or other student papers in your area.

5. Invite an investigative reporter from a local news organization to give a lecture or workshop for your staff.

6. Find an interesting database (faculty salaries, campus crime statistics, parking ticket fine information) and assign a team to crunch the numbers in Excel or another spreadsheet program. Have them look for possible story ideas.

7. Get a copy of your school’s most recent budget and one from five years ago and assign a team of reporters to delve into it in search of story ideas. Which programs are getting more funding, and which programs have been cut?

8. Run key school officials--the chancellor, president, provost, deans, controversial professors--through a criminal records check. Do the same for high-profile students, such as members of the football team or student governing board or leaders of student groups.

9. Check health inspection reports on the cafeterias and other food service establishments on or near campus. Find out which popular bars near campus have been cited for serving underage drinkers.

10. Request salary data for all faculty members. Find the highest paid professors and compare how professors in different departments are paid. Look for patterns. Are women or minority professors paid less than white men? Does the average English professor make half the salary of the average business professor? Your readers have a right to know.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ice Breakers for Staff Orientation and Training Sessions

As you plan your orientation or staff training for the fall semester think about ways to get staff members to get to know each other better in an informal way. Such ice breakers can ease tensions and help build relationships right from the start. Here are some suggested ice breakers:

Interview Introductions: Pair up staff members and have them interview each other for five minutes. Ask each student to find out three interesting or unusual facts about the person they're interviewing. Encourage staffers to go beyond the obvious questions: major, position on the paper, where the person is from, etc., and ask deeper questions, such as the most exciting place they’ve ever been or the craziest thing they’ve ever done. Have each person introduce the person they interviewed -- and the three things they learned -- to the rest of the staff in 30 seconds or less.

Hopes and Fears – Have each staff member introduce themselves and talk about one thing they are excited about for the coming semester and one fear or thing they are anxious about. This gets people’s anxieties out on the table right from the start and builds an instance sense of intimacy.

Line Up: Organize participants into equal-size groups of 8 to 10. Direct each team to line up in order of their birthdays. When a team is finished they should all clap their hands. Then check that they've got it right. The first team to line up successfully wins. (A variation of this is to have people line up by height, smallest to tallest, but not allow them to use words.)

People Bingo: Draw or print a 5 X 5 grid, like a bingo card, on a piece of paper and write things such as "born in another country," "is the oldest child in family," “plays a musical instrument” into each square. (If you know the people, you can actually tailor the criteria to specifically fit your group). You might want to throw in some journalism references, such as “has seen the movie Shattered Glass,” “has read The Elements of Journalism” or "has done an internship at a newspaper." Make a copy of the sheet for each person. Instruct people to mingle and get the signature of one person who meets the criteria for each square. Unless you have fewer than 25 participants, don't let people collect the same signature twice. The first person with a completed card wins.

Pocketbook Scavenger Hunt: Divide participants into two or more equal-sized teams of four to seven people. Give each group a pocketbook scavenger hunt sheet and give them three minutes to come up with as many of the items as they can from their pockets, purses, or other belongings they have with him.
Pocketbook Scavenger Hunt List
A yellow highlighter
Business card
Thumb drive
A frequent-customer card from a bookstore, cafe or restaurant
Hair pin
Black comb
Restaurant receipt
AAA card
Picture of a close relative
Hair scrunchie
Something with your college or university’s logo
Contact lens case
Restaurant coupon
College ID
Planning calendar

If you’ve got other ice breakers to share, describe them in a comment below.