Thursday, November 29, 2007

College sex writers to be honored

Attention all sex columnists and sexuality beat writers! If you've gotten ribbed all year for your no-subject-is-taboo columns or stories about orgasms and kinky sexual positions, read on.

Now you can get some respect. And money.

The makers of Trojan brand condoms and the National Sexuality Resource Center's Campaign for Sexual Literacy are now accepting entries for the first-ever Trojan Evolve Student Journalism Award.

The grand prize: $2,000 in cash and a trip for two to San Francisco, where the winner will be honored at the 2008 Champions for Sexual Literacy annual dinner. Four additional students will receive honorable mentions and a $500 prize. All winning entries will be published on the Trojan Evolve Web site.

The award is designed to recognize "college journalists who do an exceptional job reporting on sexual health topics in their college print or online media outlet." Students can apply by submitting an article published in 2007 relating to sexual health issues, statistics, products, policy or opinions at

Contest entries must focus on sexual health, "the experience of enjoying our sexuality, both emotionally and physically, throughout our lives."

According to the contest rules, "topics may include, but are not limited to, sexual health issues, statistics, products, policy and opinions. Articles should include references to condom use and must be consistent with the Evolve master narrative summary."

"With this award recognition, we hope to support student journalists who strive to articulate the evolving challenges, experiences and perspectives related to sexual health and condom usage in their college community or the greater U.S. population," Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing for Trojan, said in a news release about the contest. "College students are truly in a position to help to shape this nation into a sexually healthy society, and that requires an evolved media discourse about what it actually means to be sexually healthy."

The contest will be judged by a panel of sexual health experts, journalism professionals and Trojan brand representatives.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

PBS to air series on Penn State Newspaper

Even before MTV could get "The Paper," its high school newspaper series, on the air, PBS is beating it to the punch with another "The Paper," a documentary on The Daily Collegian at Pennsylvania State University.

The 78-minute documentary, directed by veteran filmmaker Aaron Matthews, is scheduled to make its national broadcast premiere on the weekly show Independent Lens at 10 p.m. on Dec. 11, according to PBS. You can watch a preview of the documentary here.

Matthews spent six weeks in the fall of 2004 filming at The Daily Collegian, one of the nation's largest student newspapers. With a 200-person staff and a circulation that rivals that of many small-town newspapers, the paper serves as a microcosm of journalism today.

“The most fascinating thing about making THE PAPER was seeing just how much this college newsroom was our media world in miniature," Matthews says in a news release. "These students struggle to report what’s relevant, all while asking basic questions that newsmakers as well as news consumers seem to have stopped asking. The kids in THE PAPER aren’t cynical or resigned, and of course just like the professional media they don't always get it right. But they’re talking about really important issues, and confronting them head on."

James Young, the Collegian editor-in-chief at the time of the filming, reflected on the experience in his farewell column for the paper in 2005.

The film was shown on the Penn State campus on Nov. 7.

It's also been making the film festival circuit this year, with showings at the Maryland Film Festival and the Philadelphia Film Festival. You can view of slideshow of Matthews and Daily Collegian adviser John Harvey talking about the documentary at the Philadelphia Film Society site.

Those who want the DVD can rent a copy for $125 or buy one for $398 from First Run/Icarus Films.

Thanks to Pat Parish of Louisiana State University for the tip.

Daughter shares moving portrait of mentally ill mom

Tiara Etheridge, a staff writer for The Daily at the University of Oklahoma, wrote a powerful story last month about her mother's experience with mental illness.

The first-person piece deftly weaves together Etheridge's personal experiences with facts about mental illness. She notes that Oklahoma has among the highest rates of mental illness, "with 13.26 percent of residents 18 years old and older having experienced a severe mental disorder."

It's a great example of using a difficult personal experience to educate and enlighten readers. It's also a terrific piece of writing.

Thanks to Kenna Griffin for calling the piece to our attention in her blog, The KRG, A Practical Resource for Student Journalists.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Medill J-school alumni protest changes

Alumni of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism have sent a petition and letter to the university protesting recent changes in the curriculum, according to a post on the Chicago Reader's News Bites blog.

The alumni wrote that they were particularly concerned about the way changes have been implemented at the school by Dean John Lavine.

"Because faculty governance has been suspended, Dean Lavine has been making changes unilaterally or with staff members that support him indiscriminately. Those who have expressed dissent have been demoted or forced out."

The petition, signed by more than 75 alumni, was delivered to the university’s Board of Trustees and provost.

A 2006 Columbia Journalism Review article about Lavine quoted him as saying he planned to "blow up" the school's curriculum. The new 2020 Curricula, which was unveiled in August, puts increased emphasis on integrated marketing communications, new technology and "audience understanding."

The alumni also objected to changes in the school's Washington program, which allowed students to work as Washington, DC correspondents for specific publications. "The changes to the program will not only damage the quality of the Washington reporting experience, but it will also hurt student job prospects," said the letter, signed by Camille Gerwin, who earn her MSJ in 2004, and Andrew Bossone, graduated from the program in 2005.

You can read questions and responses about the J-school's new curricula on the school's Web site.

What do you think of Northwestern's new curricula -- is it a vision for the future or does it sacrifice old-fashioned journalistic values? Post a comment.

Facebook for College Newspapers

Sean Blanda, a magazine journalism major at Temple University and Webmaster for The Temple News, offers some useful tips in his blog post "How to use Facebook to leverage your college newspaper."

Blanda offers step-by-step instructions for creating a business page.

Several other campus newspapers are doing interesting things with Facebook. The Daily Mississippian at the University of Mississippi, for example, offers news updates on its Facebook page.

What's your student newspaper doing with Facebook? Have you created any cool applications? Are you using it to build readership or recruit staff? Post a message below.

Student newspaper copes with racism charge

The Hoya, the student newspaper at Georgetown University, recently found itself in a not-uncommon position for college newspapers: it was charged with racism.

The allegation came after the newspaper gave scant coverage to an all-day rally and candlelight vigil in September supporting the Jena Six, the group of six black male students who were charged with attempted murder after attacking a white student in Jena, La.

Shortly after the rally, which the paper covered in a mere news brief, someone chalked the words, "The Hoya is racist," in the university's Red Square, according to a column last Friday by outgoing Editor-in-Chief Max Sarinsky. The six-letter word was also scrawled across dozens of copies of the paper. The paper received angry columns and letters. And someone threw a rock through the editor-in-chief's apartment window.

The response has forced The Hoya staff to examine its composition and its coverage.

"As far as The Hoya is concerned, there are a lot of hard questions that we've been asking ourselves, though I'm sorry that it took such drastic action for us to do so," Sarinsky wrote.

On asking himself if the charge of racism is valid, Sarinsky said he is confident The Hoya is "not racist in its coverage, recruiting and training practices and the personal views of those on the staff."

However, he noted that the staff is far less diverse than it should be.

"The fact is, The Hoya is an unfortunate reflection of the divides that pervade this campus. If you were to put every member of our staff and each of their closest friends in a large room, some minority groups wouldn't be represented too well."

In the column, Sarinsky pledged to reach out to student organizations with the goal of diversifying coverage. He urged readers to reach out to others, too.

"Interact with the kind of people you may have given funny looks in high school. Stop self-segregating from the day you step foot on campus. And be critical of yourself and think of ways that you can be part of the solution."

The Hoya is not the first student newspaper to be called racist. Other papers have gotten that label for running racially insensitive cartoons and columns and for failing to cover events and issues of particular interest to certain groups.

How can students newspapers better cover the communities they serve? How can they avoid charges of racism? How can they be more inclusive and diversify their staffs? Post a comment below.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Student newspapers are doing something right

While newspaper executives around the country wring their hands about declines in readership and rack their brains about how to bring in younger readers, student newspapers continue to thrive.

Perhaps the professionals should be looking to student papers for the answers.

In fact, some of them are.

In her blog, Run of Paper, this week, Jody Reese, publisher of a small group of free newspapers and magazines in Manchester, New Hampshire, writes about the success of college papers.

"Despite Facebook and Myspace, college kids still read their campus newspapers, in print," Reese writes. "What does it say about the death of newspapers that as many as 76 percent of college kids say they have read one of the last five issues of their college newspaper?" (The statistic comes from a 2006 report from Y2M: Youth Media & Market Networks and College Publisher that also found 44 percent of students read their college papers in print at least twice per week and 33 percent pick them up at least once per month. By comparison, only 28 percent of college students regularly read their community papers in print -- and even fewer read community papers online.)

"It says that nothing is wrong with the medium of the newsprint," Reese continues. "It should loudly remind newspaper companies that it's their poor content that is driving younger readers away for their products, not college students' lack of interest in civic affairs or the internets."

While I agree with Bryan Murley and the folks at the Center for Innovation in College Media that student newspapers need to beef up their Web sites and embrace new media, clearly college newspapers are doing something right in print.

For one thing, they're hyperlocal, just as Rob Curley of Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, suggests all papers should be.

"There's no more local paper than a campus paper," Dina Pradel, general manager of Y2M, which founded College Publisher in 1999, told The Baltimore Sun last year.

Good student newspapers write about people, places and events at a college or university that are often ignored by mainstream media. The more college papers can stick to this philosophy, the more targeted the coverage, the more successful they will be.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Another take on journalism prof's "plagiarism"

Bob Stepno, a professor in the Media Studies Department at Radford University, offers another perspective on the allegations that University of Missouri Professor John Merrill plagiarized a student newspaper in his column for the Columbia Missourian.

"Using Web links might have saved a distinguished Missouri journalism professor the sight of this nightmare headline: Journalism Professor Admits Plagiarism," Stepno says in his blog.

"I think it's a bad headline based on a bum rap. He didn't deserve it. The word 'plagiarism' implies much worse offense than this case, which may be routine practice for many newspaper columnists: He quoted people. He identified the people he quoted. He just didn't identify a publication where he read those quotes. All that's missing from his column is a link to the earlier story."

As we reported earlier this week, Merrill lifted several quotes from The Maneater, the independent student newspaper at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in his controversial Nov. 4 column without attributing them. Editors reviewing his columns for the past year found five other instances where Merrill had taken quotes without attributing them to the publication where they first appeared.

Stepno offers these distinctions:
  • Reporters go out and interview people, then write stories.
  • Columnists write opinions. Some columnists don't get out much. Some of them make stuff up so much that they add "I'm not making this up" here and there.
  • Plagiarism is taking someone else's writing and presenting it as your own.
  • Poaching is borrowing someone else's reporting and presenting it as -- just possibly -- your own. When reporters do it, they're being dumb, lazy or egotistical. When columnists do it, it's probably just columny.

What do you think? Is it OK for columnists to use quotes from other media outlets without citing the original publication? Post a comment here.

Editor fired for posting noose

A student editor at a Minneapolis college newspaper who used a hanging noose as a threat to motivate writers to meet their deadlines has been fired and the multiracial campus is embroiled in a debate about racial sensitivity.

In October, Gabriel Keith, an assistant editor at the City College News at Minneapolis Community & Technical College, made a drawstring from a hooded sweatshirt into a noose and hung it from the newsroom ceiling with a note about making deadlines, according to reports by Uwire, the City College News, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Keith told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he didn't understand the racial implications of the noose, which was commonly used in the lynchings of African Americans in the South.

School investigators concluded that the incident was not racially motivated, but it angered many on the racially diverse campus, where about 30 percent of the nearly 12,000 students are African American. On Thursday more than 150 students and faculty members gathered for a discussion about race, according to an Associated Press report.

I have not been able to find any kind of letter from the editor or editorial about the incident on the City College News Web site explaining the story and the decision to fire Keith. It seems like one would be in order.

If you know more about the incident and want to share information please post a comment.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Daily O'Collegian staff won't post to Web site

The newspaper staff of The Daily O'Collegian at Oklahoma State University has stopped providing content from the print edition to its own Web site because of a dispute over hiring practices.

Students are publishing a daily print newspaper, but stories and photos are not being posted on, the newspaper's Web site.

The dispute stems from a decision by the Student Publications Board, which oversees all publications on campus, to grant power to the Web site's adviser, a nonstudent, to hire and Web site contributors, according to a letter in Monday's print edition from Editor-in-Chief Jenny Redden.

“This action goes against the heart of a student-run publication,” she wrote. “If students control a publication, they must have the ability to hire and fire employees of that publication. When nonstudents are afforded this power, the publication is no longer student-run. It belittles me and the other editors in the newsroom, undermining our authority to the point that we are ineffectual. … What is our recourse? We can fire them, but they can in turn seek employment at the Web site.”

Fritz Wirt, the O'Collegian's general manager, told Uwire that the print and online editions have operated separately for 12 years and have different editors. Both news organizations and their content are owned by the O’Collegian Publishing Company.

As Bryan Murley notes on the Innovation in College Media blog, this is an unusual management structure, one that really doesn't make sense in this era of converged news operations.

The print news staff is posting stories on MySpace and Facebook.

The O'Collegian Web site has a poll this week asking: "Do you agree with the newsroom's move to withhold content from the web office and migrate to Facebook and MySpace instead?"

Of the 421 people who had voted as of this writing, 71 percent said "No" and 29 percent said "Yes."

The Web site also offers this note of explanation under the heading "What's Going On?"

"There have been some interesting developments inside the offices of The Daily O'Collegian. In short, the newsroom has started a protest and is withholding all content from the Web site. Please be patient in the coming days. We do not know how long this will last. Our goal remains to provide not only a means of accessing the more than 30,000 stories we have available, but to supply breaking news when it happens with or without the content of the printed newspaper. Please comment on this story with any suggestions, we would greatly appreciate them." was started in 1995 as a student honors program project and has been on the Web since the Fall 1996 semester, according to the Web site. "A student organizing group chose the ocolly online web name to differentiate it from the printed Daily O’Collegian, although virtually all of the local news, information and entertainment online content is provided from Daily O’Collegian printed editions," the Web site says.

Best wishes to the staff of the Daily O'Collegian and to straighten this out and provide the Oklahoma State University with the coverage -- online and in print -- it deserves.

Thanks to Andrew Young, editorial director of UWIRE, for the story tip.

November Story of the Month

OK, we've been a little behind on the Story of the Month, but we've got a doozy for you now. This week the Daily Bruin at UCLA broke a major investigative story on preferential admission practices by the university's prestigious orthodontics residency program.

In an investigation that took more than four months, Robert Faturechi, the newspaper's enterprise editor, found that the residency program had violated University of California policy and standards governing public schools by giving special admissions consideration to relatives of major donors.

"In this unprecedented practice within the School of Dentistry, applicants related to donors giving six-figure gifts were automatically advanced over other students despite their lower test scores and grades," the story said.

"This was definitely the hardest story I’ve ever done," said Faturechi, a senior who has worked on the Daily Bruin since his freshman year. "It was several months of really hard work."

The university had already investigated the allegations and found “no credible and convincing evidence that deals were made or understandings reached to admit an applicant in return for donating money to the school,” according to an internal audit.

But the Daily Bruin found evidence, including e-mail messages and internal documents, showing that the orthodontics program had systematically advanced applicants related to major donors over more qualified students.

The Daily Bruin Web site included links to documents, including the audit and a letter of resignation from a faculty member who quit in protest of the university’s inaction on the allegations of admissions impropriety. It also included graphs depicting the university's increasing reliance on private donations.

No-Hee Park, dean of the School of Dentistry, said in a prepared statement that the admissions program was fair and based on merit.

"While an independent investigation requested by Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams found no credible and convincing evidence to support allegations of a legacy program in the orthodontics admissions process," Park said, "it did provide us with an opportunity to review our admissions policies and procedures and make improvements in the areas of oversight and transparency."

The story was picked up by several major media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and even The Drudge Report.

Faturechi said he first learned about the story from an e-mail tip.

"Most of the time when you get e-mails like that there’s nothing to them," he said. "I gave the guy a call and he sounded fairly legitimate so I drove out to his house. He had some documents to support what he was saying."

Faturechi said it was a difficult story to report, because many of the key sources declined to be interviewed or were hesitant to talk. "I had to be persistent," he said. Others, however, were outraged and willing to share their views.

"Some of the folks I talked to take great pride in the program and they were frustrated with what they had seen had happen. They wanted to clean things up."

Faturechi said investigative stories like this one renew his faith that journalism is alive and well.

"A lot of folks say good print journalism is dying," he said. "If my friends are any indication, that’s not true. My editors and fellow reporters at the Daily Bruin are incredibly committed to covering our community well. There is still a passion for print journalism."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Journalism prof responds to plagiarism charge

John Merrill, the University of Missouri-Columbia journalism professor who admitted to lifting quotes from a student newspaper last week, published a response to the incident in Wednesday's Columbia Missourian.

Titled "Carelessness is not Plagiarism," the piece begins: "After some 60 years of dedicated service to journalism and teaching, I must admit that I am almost traumatized by the recent tempest in a teapot incident related to what The Missourian editor has called my plagiarism. I have written and edited more than 30 books, articles for journals and newspapers, and a column in The Missourian for three years, and this is the first time I have been accused of plagiarism. The media have stressed the monolithic negative of the term 'plagiarism' and have not attempted to consider ethical and semantic aspects of the story. So I am left in public view as a villain, a linguistic thief, or worse."

Merrill, a journalism professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, was relieved of his weekly Sunday column for the Columbia Missourian, a community paper written by students, last week after editors found he had used quotes from The Maneater, the independent student newspaper in town, without attribution. (You can read about the incident in this earlier blog post.)

Merrill contends that taking quotes without attribution is not plagiarism but simply carelessness.

"I did not lift any sentences or paragraphs from anybody else’s writing," he writes. "I look on these short, directly quoted expressions from the two women in the news story as 'news-facts' and see them as in the public domain. Certainly, if what I did is plagiarism, it was unintentional and could, at the most, be considered technical, not unethical."

The piece has a number of comments, mostly from Merrill supporters.

What do you think? Is lifting quotes plagiarism or just carelessness? Was the Columbia Missourian right to take away Merrill's column or did the editors make a "tempest in a teapot," as Merrill contends? Post a comment below.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Journalism professor plagiarizes from student paper

A prominent University of Missouri-Columbia journalism professor has taught his students a powerful lesson in plagiarism by stealing information from a student newspaper and passing it off as his own.

John Merrill, a professor emeritus at the university's School of Journalism, was relieved last week of the Sunday column he wrote for the Columbia Missourian, a community newspaper written by students, after it was revealed that he lifted quotes and other phrases from an article in The Maneater, the independent student newspaper that serves the Columbia campus.

In a Nov. 9 letter to readers, Tom Warhover, the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation, explained that Merrill's Nov. 4 column about the university's women's and gender studies program "used three quotes and other phrases taken directly from an Oct. 5 article in The Maneater."

"Several journalists and journalism educators I spoke with referred to the use as the ethical equivalent of a misdemeanor, not a felony," Warhover wrote. "I believe the Missourian, and the School of Journalism, must hold itself to a higher standard."

Warhover's column quotes a letter of apology from Merrill:

“Let me say first that I am truly sorry about the plagiarism in my column about Women’s and Gender Studies,” Merrill wrote. “I thought I had mentioned The Maneater as the source from which I got the few and scattered quotes I used to spin off into my column. I always am sensitive to that. I thought I had done it in that column and was really surprised, when you called me in, to find that I had neglected to do this.

“But I assure you that it was ‘unintentional’ plagiarism, and I had no reason to make it look as if I got these quotes from the sources directly. I was using them as a springboard for my opinion. But I did it, and I’m sorry. Careless, I’ll admit, but not intentional. All these dozens and dozens of columns and some 30 books and innumerable magazine and newspaper articles and never before have I been accused of plagiarism.”

Missourian editors examined Merrill's columns from the past year and found five more columns in which at least one quote had been taken from other publications without attribution, Warhover wrote.

"Missourian policy does not allow any writer to appropriate someone else's words as his own, even when those words are within quotation marks," he wrote.

Update: Read about Merrill's response here.

Hat tip to Scot Tucker of San Francisco State University for alerting us to this story.

Grinnell student paper breaks Clinton scandal

Some are calling it "Plant-gate."

The Scarlet and Black, the student newspaper at Grinnell College, broke a big political story last week when it reported that a Hillary Clinton campaign aide had asked a student from the Iowa college to pose a question about global warming to the presidential candidate.

Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff told her campus newspaper that audience questions at a Nov. 6 campaign event at a Newton, Iowa biodiesel plant were "canned." “One of the senior staffers told me what [to ask],” she told reporter Patrick Caldwell.

Clinton has said she wasn't aware the question had been planted.

The professional media has been all over the story ever since, with reports in The New York Times, the New York Post, The Nation and other media.

Interestingly, the Scarlet and Black didn't seem to realize just what a big scoop it had. The story ran on Page 2 of the newspaper's special 4-page "caucus insert" although it's the top story on the newspaper's home page.

Update: You can view a taped interview with Gallo-Chasanoff at

Monday, November 12, 2007

LA Times series offers journalism lessons

Hey Journalism Educators,

Looking for an easy and powerful lesson for this week? The Los Angeles Times has put together a package just for you -- The Marlboro Marine.

Three years ago Luis Sinco, a photographer for the LA Times, took a photograph of a battle-weary soldier smoking a cigarette in Fallouja, Iraq.

"With the click of a shutter, Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, a country boy from Kentucky, became an emblem of the war in Iraq," Sinco writes in the story that ran Sunday. "The resulting image would change two lives -- his and mine."

In a masterpiece of multimedia storytelling using photographs, video, text and original music by the subject of the story -- Sinco tells the story of what happened to the marine when he came back.

The beauty of this piece is that it offers many kinds of lessons -- the power of multimedia storytelling, the importance of photojournalists learning to tell stories with words and a courseload of lessons on ethics. You can discuss the way a single high-profile photo can change a person's life, what happens when a journalist gets personally involved with a source and where to draw the line between being a journalist and being a human being.

It's a piece every journalist should see.

Hat tip to Tom Nelson of Loyola Marymount University for bringing this piece to our attention.

From soldier to student newspaper columnist

Georgetown University student and Iraq veteran William Quinn had an interesting essay in The Washington Post yesterday about his transition from soldier to student.

"I find it frustrating that Facebook is a bigger part of most students' lives than the war," he writes.

Quinn, a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service, also writes a column called Aimless Feet every other Tuesday for The Hoya, the student newspaper at Georgetown. It's a great example of the kind of provocative, insightful commentary student newspapers can get by tapping non-traditional students.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Advocate faces ethical dilemma

The Advocate, the student newspaper at Contra Costa College in Richmond, Calif., had a difficult ethical decision to make yesterday.

One of the newspaper's photographers got a shot of a campus police aide, a student, who had been shot just minutes before. The powerful image shows the young man lying on the ground with other police aides gathered around him.

The photo was ready to be published within an hour of the shooting, but the young man's family had not been notified. The editors had a tough decision: Should they run the photo immediately, wait, or not run the photo? The student editors decided to hold off until the victim's next of kin had been notified about his injuries. The newspaper posted the photo on its Web site later that day, after authorities had notified the family and confirmed the victim's identity. (By that time the editors also knew the victim was still alive but seriously injured.)

Though the editors held the photo for several hours, the newspaper ran updates on the story throughout the afternoon and evening, including a report on the manhunt for the gunman and another on the cancellation of classes in response to the shooting. The Advocate's coverage is an excellent example of how a weekly college newspaper can cover a big breaking news story.

Do you think the newspaper editors made the right decision? Should the paper have held the photo? Should the photo have been posted to the Web immediately? Post a comment here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Daily Titan aborts condom promotion

The Daily Titan at California State University, Fullerton has scrapped plans to distribute free condoms in its Nov. 14 issue after the student health center backed out of the promotional deal.

The newspaper had made arrangements with the student health center to place 4,500 condoms into the paper to encourage students to have safe sex. But when the paper announced the plan with promotional signs featuring stick figures having sex in the missionary position, students and administrators began to complain.

“If I’m picking up a paper to read it, I would not necessarily want to have a condom there,” Dean of Students Bob Palmer told the Orange County Register. “You know how newspapers are; we would probably have condoms out all over campus.”

Last week the health center administration pulled out of the deal.

Instead, the newspaper has decided to print a coupon that students can clip and use to redeem a free condom from the health center.

The Daily Titan editors expressed their annoyance at the health center's decision in an editorial on Nov. 1.

"Those in charge of the center are sorely mistaken," the editorial said. "They are adopting a very dangerous philosophy that denies a person the ability to protect themselves simply because that protection may offend some people."

The bottom line, the editorial notes, is that fewer students will get the condoms.

"Out of the 4,500 condoms the Daily Titan was going to distribute to students by way of impulse grabs, only a small fraction will take the trip with their coupon to the center and get their free condom. Rather than 4,500 condoms in the pockets, wallets, purses and backpacks of students all over campus, the center will only give out a small fraction of this number through their coupon system."

Monday, November 05, 2007

A vision of students today

OK, this doesn't really have anything to do with student newspapers, but I thought it was an interesting use of video technology for transmitting a message. And the message is certainly one of interest to students of media and the educators who teach them.

So check it out.

The video was created by Professor Michael Wesch at Kansas State University and the 200 students enrolled in his ANTH 200: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course in Spring 2007.

"It began as a brainstorming exercise, thinking about how students learn, what they need to learn for their future, and how our current educational system fits in," Wesch writes on the class Web site. "We created a Google Document to facilitate the brainstorming exercise, which began with the following instructions:

… the basic idea is to create a 3 minute video highlighting the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. We already know some things from previous research (and if you know of any interesting statistics, please list them along with the source). Others we will need to find out by doing a class survey. Please add whatever you want to know or present.

The video was posted on YouTube, where you can read comments from viewers around the world.

Hat tip to Sylvia Fox of Sacramento State University for turning me on to this video.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ira Glass shares storytelling secrets

If you happen to think Ira Glass is brilliant (I do) or even if you just kind of like This American Life, you should check out this series of videos on YouTube, in which Glass shares his thoughts on storytelling.

It's a great primer for student journalists getting into video, audio slide shows, podcasting or even narrative writing. Glass' advice is wise, amusing and even self-deprecating. In the third part, he critiques one of his own radio stories, pointing out where it's boring, where it's stilted, where it's false.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Student journalists offer scoop on '08 election

Has a presidential election ever captivated young voters the way this one has? Have student journalists ever had so many ways to report and publish?

Bringing these two currents together is a group of student journalists who are creating Scoop08, a national online student newspaper focusing on the 2008 presidential campaign. The site is scheduled to launch Sunday, exactly one year before the election.

“We’re creating a national forum for students to participate from a journalistic perspective in this exciting 2008 election,” says Andrew Mangino, the 20-year-old editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News and cofounder of Scoop08. His partner in political journalism is Alexander Heffner, a high school senior at Phillips Academy, where he is general manager of WPAA, the academy's radio station, and the host of The Political Arena, a political and public affairs radio program.

“This is the first national student newspaper,” Mangino says. “The Internet presents so many new possibilities. Why does a student newspaper have to stop at the school gates?”

The two met in 2006 when they were interning for Hillary Clinton’s New York senatorial campaign. But Mangino, who is registered as an independent (at 17, Heffner is too young to vote), insists they’re not biased. “We are both openminded. If my mind was made up I couldn’t do this project. I plan to be pretty undecided until Nov. 4, 2008 at noon or so when I got to the polls to vote.”

The pair has already assembled a network of more than 300 high school and college student journalists from around the country to contribute to the site “and that number is growing by the hour,” Mangino says. The site even has some foreign correspondents, mostly American students studying abroad in places like South Korea, Egypt, Chile and the United Kingdom. Some foreign students have also asked to participate.

Content will be edited by a team of student journalists from Yale, Ohio University, Columbia University, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, the University of Maine, Oberlin College and other schools.

Even before its launch the site is getting some buzz. It’s been written up by the BBC, Editor and Publisher, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Some of the attention may come from Scoop08's star-studded advisory board, which includes politicians (Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, former presidential candidate and Colorado Sen. Gary Hart and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson) and journalists (Judy Woodruff of PBS, New York Times columnist Frank Rich and Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter).

How did a couple of students persuade so many hotshots to get involved? “We got them the same way we got students excited: by stating the idea,” Mangino says. “This is a logical thing that has to be done. By presenting the message in an e-mail or phone call, people get excited about the idea.”

Mangino says the high-powered advisory board will help ensure that the site maintains a high caliber of reporting. “This is not a blog with random rants,” he says. “This will be professional, unbiased reporting on interesting topics and then commentary that’s separate from that.”

Asked how he balances his responsibilities as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News and co-founder of Scoop08 on top of his school work, Mangino replies: "A lot of all-nighters. It's totally worth it, though. Anytime I get tired I just think to myself there's no other year this is going to happen. This 2008 election is generating so much excitement. That's how I motivate myself and others on the project."

Scoop08 is looking for students to contribute audio, video, photo and text reports on all aspects of the election, as well as thoughtful commentary pieces. To get involved, simply fill out this form.

Watch the Scoop08 trailer.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Science writing for college newspapers

Writing about science and medicine for a college newspaper can be intimidating. How do you make scientific advances and medical concepts interesting to college students? How do you write about things you barely understand yourself? And how do you get people with all those letters after their names to speak English?

But many students who report on science come to appreciate -- and even learn to love -- the intellectual and practical challenges that come along with it. With science writing, you're always learning something new. You get to understand cool stuff, like how the human body fights off invading organisms or what black holes really are.

And experience on a science beat can pay off down the career road. Some solid clips and a line on your resume that says "science writer" or "medical writer" can lead to lucrative and satisfying careers in medical journalism, public relations, government and private agency work, as well as health and science fields. For those thinking about graduate programs in science writing like the one at MIT (my brother Robert Kanigel is the director--tell him I sent you), UC Santa Cruz, Johns Hopkins, and Boston University, experience writing about science will help set you apart from the pack of applicants.

So how do you cover science and medicine? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Cultivate sources. As with any beat, you're only as good as your sources. You can find them in the laboratories around campus, in student associations of medical or nursing students, in environmental groups, in the student health center, in academic departments. Don't feel that you have to only use top officials and professors. Graduate students who work in a lab and receptionists who work in the health center can also be helpful sources of information.

  • Ask the right questions. In talking to sources, always ask: What's new? The answer may be a scientific advance, a troubling trend, the outbreak of an illness or the launch of a new treatment or product. You should also ask what's not going well. Are scientists frustrated because their funding is running out? Is there a shortage of equipment? Are cadavers being misused?

  • Do your homework.To find story ideas and to educate yourself about science writing, you should regularly read The New York Times, particularly Science Times, the weekly science section that comes out on Tuesday; some of the major scientific journals like Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association; and whatever other specialty publications you can find about the field you're covering.

  • Milk your public affairs office. Try to get a line not just on upcoming press releases but on ongoing research on your campus. Who are the major players? Who's getting the biggest grants? What kinds of research is your campus best known for?
  • Use online science information services. Regularly check Newswise and Eurekalert, which distribute press releases from research institutions around the nation.

  • Localize national stories. Think about how national headlines apply to your campus and community. If there's a new contraceptive on the market, see if it's available at your campus health center or at local drug stores. If a natural disaster strikes elsewhere in the country, see if experts from your campus will be providing any technical assistance.

  • Explore the science behind the news. Many news stories have a scientific angle -- the injury that sidelined your team's starting quarterback, the earthquake that struck a nearby community, weird weather patterns. Find scientists and physicians who can put these stories into context for your readers.

  • Learn the lingo. Writing about science means translating foreign or complex concepts into simple language. Learn what the scientific terms mean and then figure out how to explain them to a lay audience. If you can find the right metaphor, you can explain nearly anything. But don't just make these up. Science writing is really a partnership between the experts and the journalists -- make sure whatever you write is technically accurate.


National Association of Science Writers

Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

American Medical Writers Association

Association of Health Care Journalists

Best American Science Writing, an annual series published by Harper Collins

Ideas Into Words, Mastering the Craft of Science Writing by Elise Hancock

A Field Guide for Science Writers edited by Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig