Sunday, October 28, 2007

Curleyize your student newspaper

WASHINGTON, D.C.--I’ve seen new media guru Rob Curley give basically the same speech four times in the past few years, but I always find his message inspiring. The gospel of hyperlocal coverage mixed with what he calls “multimedia overkill” that he delivered Friday at the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention here is one all student newspapers should heed.

Student media organizations may not have the legions of database whizzes and eager-to-please interns who have supported Curley’s innovations through the years at the Lawrence Journal World, the Naples Daily News and now at Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, but here are some things you can do to apply his philosophy to your student paper.

  • Seek out the “nerds” that Curley says every newspaper needs. Go to your computer science department to find people who think it might be cool to create a searchable database of all the restaurants in your college town or to crunch the numbers in university salary records or other data.

  • Strive for your own brand of “multimedia overkill.” That means creating videos, slideshows and podcasts about everything happening on campus, not just the big events, but the little ones – health fairs and routine games and the bands that perform on the quad at lunchtime every week.

  • Create your own version of The Washington Post’s “On Being” series--two-minute videos about what life is like for regular Joes that has become one of the most popular features on the newspaper’s Web site.

  • Make a series of virtual tours of your college campus. Take readers to the most outrageous dorm rooms, the coolest research labs, the messiest professors’ offices, the best places to kiss.

  • Collect mini videos of professor’s lectures so students can see if they’d prefer Professor Chen or Professor Jones for Art History 101.

  • Give more attention to college sports, creating video reports for every game and pages for each player like Curley’s staff does for the high school teams of Loudon County, Virginia.

  • Link to data that already exists. When you write about professors like to their university Web pages so readers can read their bios, find out more about their research and get their office hours and contact information. If your campus is audiotaping or videotaping lectures and putting them on the Web, link to those, too.

  • Create the partnerships with readers that Curley advocates by encouraging students to send in their photos, videos and other materials. Link to regular contributors' Facebook and MySpace pages.

  • Encourage students who don't work for the newspaper to write blogs about specific aspects of campus life--dorm life, medical school, study-abroad programs, fraternities and sororities.

  • Create resource guides to your campus like the ones at These might include guides to student or community elections, student clubs and organizations, Greek organizations, local bands, local restaurants and/or businesses. Include photos, videos and useful information like hours, phone numbers and maps. Once readers know these guides are on your site, they will come back again and again to check information. You can update them each year or each semester.

Developing this kind of material isn’t just going to make your newspaper better. It will give you the skill sets that Curley and other professionals say they want in new hires.

Do you have other ideas student newspapers can use to emphasize multimedia and hyperlocal coverage? Share them by posting a comment below.


Anonymous said...

That would be Loudoun County, Virginia.

Johson said...

Newspaper reading is my best hobby....!