Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Taking a break

The Student Newspaper Survival Guide is on vacation. We'll be back in late January with more news, notes and commentary about student newspapers.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Princeton student admits fabricating attack

A Princeton student who claimed he was the victim of hate e-mail and a brutal physical attack for his conservative views has admitted he fabricated the whole thing, according to news reports.

Francisco Nava, a 23-year-old junior, told local police officials that scratches on his face were self-inflicted, and that he had sent threatening e-mail messages to himself, as well as to fellow members of Princeton’s socially conservative Anscombe Society, and to the group's adviser, Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at the university, according to an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. The society opposes premarital sex and advocates for a return to traditional family values.

On Dec. 9 Nava wrote a guest column for The Daily Princetonian criticizing a recent health fair for distributing free condoms.

"How is a collegiate casanova to feel if his own school can stuff his pockets with condoms?" Nava wrote. "It is no wonder, then, that University Health Services (UHS) over the years has had to limit a student's daily allowance to 10 condoms per visit! What Princeton's condom campaign amounts to is a tacit sponsorship of hookup sex that is fundamentally unsafe for females and ethically unconscionable for the doctors and health professionals who promote it."

A few days after the column ran, Nava reported he and other members of the Anscombe Society had received hate mail. And on Friday night, he went to the University Health Center with scrapes and scratches saying that he had been assaulted by two men.

On Sunday, Nava confessed to police that the beating and the e-mails were part of a hoax.

In a brief interview, Nava told The Daily Princetonian he thought his actions would draw attention to the pro-chastity cause.

Princeton University officials are investigating the fabricated attack and threatening e-mail messages Nava reportedly wrote, actions that could bring disciplinary actions ranging from a warning to expulsion, according to The New York Times.

The Daily Princetonian left several stories about Nava up on its Web site with notes like this at the top: "Update: Francisco Nava '09 has since admitted that he fabricated the assault described in this article. Please see the updated story."

The case raises issues of how journalists -- students and professionals -- can be deceived and manipulated by sources.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Obama pens column for The Daily Iowan

Readers of The Daily Iowan at the University of Iowa got a surprise when they turned to the opinion page Friday -- a guest column from none other than Barak Obama.

In the column, the Democratic presidential candidate shares his positions on health care, the environment and student loans.

"I'm running to make college more affordable for any American who wants to go," the column says. "I've proposed a $4,000 a year refundable tax credit that will cover two-thirds of the tuition at the average public college or university. And I'll strengthen our community colleges by offering new degrees for emerging fields and rewarding schools that graduate more students.

On Dec. 4, the Iowa State Daily, the student newspaper at Iowa State University, endorsed Obama. "Obama has not been afraid to throw a lot of his time and resources into trying to invigorate the younger crowd," the editors wrote. "This strategy has failed other candidates in the past, but we appreciate Obama's commitment to the generation who will inherit the country."

The Dec. 14 guest column is a part of Obama's strategy to court the college student vote for the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Earlier this month Obama caught some flak from his opponents for urging Iowa students living out of state to cut their holidays short and return to school so they could participate in the Iowa caucuses, according to an article in The Daily Iowan.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"The Paper" to air Tuesday night

"The Paper," the documentary about The Daily Collegian at Penn State University, is scheduled to air on most PBS stations at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. (For local listings check here.)

The distributor is offering the DVD of the 78-minute documentary to college newspapers at a special discount -- $150 instead of the regular price of $398 -- but the offer is only good through December 31, 2007. This discount "is only for college newspapers, and only for use within the paper and its staff," according to a message from the distributor, First Run/Icarus Films. "These discounted copies are not to be housed or used in departments or the library."

To take advantage of the special offer contact Ellen Hogarty at 1 (800) 876-1710 or via email at ellen@frif.com and refer to this special offer.

Thanks to Gerry Lynn Hamilton, general manager of Collegian Inc. for arranging for the discount and reporting it on the College Media Advisers' listserv.

For more about "The Paper" see this previous post.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More on the Merrill plagiarism case

If you've been following the story of John Merrill, the professor emeritus at the University of Missouri who was relieved of his column in the Columbia Missourian after lifting quotes from a student paper, you should read this piece on the Poynter site.

The article, written by four University of Missouri journalism professors, responds to criticisms that Columbia Missourian Editor Tom Warhover overreacted in publicly humiliating Merrill and stripping him of his weekly column for what some have said is a "misdemeanor" offense. The piece lays out what happened and why Merrill's actions violated the newspaper's and the school's policies on plagiarism.

The Poynter piece includes links to other stories and columns, which offer a variety of perspectives on the incident. This is material for a great journalism ethics lesson because it reaches into gray areas. Read it and discuss it with your students, professors and colleagues.

Ironically, this may end up Merrill's greatest legacy as a journalism educator. I suspect journalism students will be talking about this case for years to come, debating whether lifting quotes for a column is truly plagiarism and how editors should respond when it happens. Perhaps this case will do more to instill the values of journalism than anything Merrill taught in his classroom.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cardinal Courier site barraged by Paul supporters

Want to get people to read your online newspaper? Want to be flooded with comments? Write about presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Just look at what happened to the Cardinal Courier, the student newspaper at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y.

On Wednesday, the newspaper wrote an editorial criticizing the presidential candidate's performance in the Nov. 28 CNN/YouTube debate.

"I saw the debate," Editor-in-Chief Bill Kuchman wrote in the signed editorial. "I watched every minute of it. I heard every answer. While the results were a mixed bag, I know one thing for certain: Ron Paul is a waste of my time and trivializes the entire debate process."

The response was almost immediate.

"Within the first two hours of the article being available online, it had over 2,000 views," Kuchman wrote in a letter to The Student Newspaper Survival Blog Wednesday evening. "This was a lot for us considering our previous high for a day was just under 2,000. As of now, the article has close to 6,000 views and over 220 comments." (By Thursday evening there were 287 comments on the editorial.)

The Cardinal Courier staff did some research and found that DailyPaul.com, a site created by Paul booster Mike Nystrom, had picked up the article and was urging readers to comment against it.

"The comments not only defend Paul, but attack the character of our paper and of myself," Kuchman wrote in his letter to us. "The funny thing is that in the editorial, I talked about Paul supporters hijacking political discussion on sites like CNN and in response, that's exactly what they did to Cardinal Courier Online."

Kuchman asks: "Have any other newspapers run into this kind of thing? I'm sure the Cardinal Courier isn't the only one to wade into political arena now that we're less than a year away from the presidential election."

If you've had a similar experience with presidential politics or with a blog launching a campaign against your site, post a comment.

Monday, December 03, 2007

NPR interviews college newspaper editors

National Public Radio often interviews professional newspaper editors to take the pulse of public opinion on the issues of the day. On Saturday reporter Andrea Seabrook interviewed editors of three college newspaper editors to talk about how the presidential campaign is playing out on their campuses. She interviewed:

* David Montgomery, co-editor-in-chief of the Scarlet and Black at Grinnell College in Iowa
* Elise Waxenberg, executive editor of The Dartmouth at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire
* Jess Davis, news editor for The Daily Gamecock at the University of South Carolina

It's great to see professional media seeing college editors as the knowledgeable and articulate sources many of them are.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Free speech, press battle at Quinnipiac U

The editor of The Chronicle at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut is locked in a battle with university administrators over student journalists' First Amendment rights, according to an article in Sunday's edition of The New York Times.

Jason Braff, the 20-year-old editor of The Chronicle, has said the university administration threatened to fire him after he criticized a university policy in an interview with The Waterbury Republican American in late October. Braff was quoted in the Oct. 30 article as saying the university's policy prohibiting the student newspaper from posting articles on its Web site before running them in print was “ridiculous.”

In a follow-up story on Nov. 13, The Republican-American reported that Braff "was told in a letter from Dean of Students Manuel C. Carreiro that he may 'need to reconsider' his position at the paper if he continues to speak publicly against university policy."

Lynn Bushnell, the school’s vice president for public affairs, denied that such a threat had been made, according to the Times article.

“We do not discipline students who criticize the university or its policies,” she was quoting as saying. “We do discipline students who fail to follow clearly established policies. However, student leaders, especially those in paid positions, are expected to generally be supportive of university policies. If they disagree with established policies, we expect them to go through normal administrative channels to try to change policies.”

The university has taken a number of actions to limit The Chronicle's ability to report news. In addition to the ban on Web-first publishing, administrators have enacted policies limiting access to university officials and discouraging reporters from covering student government meetings when the university president speaks.

Braff and Chronicle Managing Editor David Westerberg laid out the pattern of limitations on student press freedom in an Oct. 24 article entitled "Lahey: Student media hinders progress," and in an open letter (also signed by Managing Editor Melissa Moller) to university President John L. Lahey published in the opinion section the same day.

"It is apparent from your actions and statements that you are trying (and succeeding) to limit our outreach and access," the letter to the president said. "As a private institution, Quinnipiac is not required to adhere to the First Amendment. However, the administration's recent actions are a threat to freedom of the press on our campus."

Kudos to Braff and The Chronicle editors for reporting on and publicly criticizing the university's efforts to stifle the press. They're standing up for student journalists everywhere.

Even though Quinnipiac University is a private school there are clearly some significant First Amendment issues here. I hope to see College Media Advisers, Associated Collegiate Press, the Student Press Law Center and other groups concerned about student press freedom to enter the discussion.

Those who want to get involved can join a "Support Jay Braff and The Chronicle" group on Facebook.

If you're concerned about the university's policy preventing the paper from breaking stories online first or about its threat against Braff, you can contact Quinnipiac University President John L. Lahey at John.Lahey@quinnipiac.edu or call 203-582-8700.

Dining guides keep readers coming back for more

Looking for a Thai restaurant that delivers? A Chinese place that takes checks? A pizza joint that offers a student discount?

If you're in Boise, Idaho, you're in luck because The Arbiter, Boise State's independent newspaper, offers a searchable online dining guide.

Like many student papers, The Arbiter uses a dining guide powered by College Publisher. It invites readers to search restaurants by atmosphere (family, fine dining, romantic, sports bar), location or cuisine using a College Publisher template. Some newspapers, like The Daily Pennsylvanian at the University of Pennsylvania, creates special lists like "Best Places to Watch a Game" and "Best Places to Go With Parents."

You don't have to use College Publisher to set up a dining guide. The Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's guide allows readers to search for bars and restaurants by district. The rival paper, The Daily Cardinal, offers a Bar Guide with daily specials.

The Daily Collegian at California State University, Fresno, invites readers to search for and comment on restaurants using a clickable map, powered by Community Walk.

Dining guides like these are fun and useful for readers and will keep them coming back to your site. Most are also interactive; users can post comments or rate the businesses listed. These kind of interactive features help build the relationship between a newspaper and its readers. And many restaurant guides generate advertising revenue.

If your paper doesn't have an online dining guide, think about starting one. Be sure to promote it in your print edition and feature it prominently on your Web site. Remember that the better you serve your community, the more your paper will be seen as a trusted resource.

Does your newspaper have a dining guide? Are you doing something new with reviews, reader comments or interactive maps? Share it by posting a comment here.