Friday, September 17, 2010

College newspaper or college media organization?

Do you work for a college newspaper that has a website or do you work for a college media organization that produces a 24/7 news website, a newspaper and perhaps other media products (such as a magazine, TV broadcasts, radio programming, etc.)?

If you’re living in the 21st century, you should be working for the latter.

No matter how small your school is or how tiny your staff may be, you should think of your print publication as part of an integrated news operation that’s ready to cover news about your campus community at every hour of the day and night.

How do you know if you work for a news media operation?

• You publish content to your website first, not waiting for the daily, weekly or monthly deadlines of your print publication.
• You post new content to your website every day – or pretty close to that.
• You cover news, including sports, arts and cultural events, as it breaks.
• You use multiple media – audio, video, text, graphics, photos – to tell stories.
• You use social media, now vital component of all media, to find, report and distribute the news.

With the Web there’s no reason to "save" content for your print publication or limit yourself to what works best in print.

Some journalists worry about cannibalizing their print publication by posting to the Web first; they think people won’t pick up their newspaper if it includes information that’s already been published online. But they have to understand three fundamental truths:

1) Audiences for print and online are different. While your print newspaper strictly circulates on campus and in your community, your website goes to the world where alumni, parents of students, prospective students and random people searching for information will find it.

2) Print and online products are different. Print publications offer after-the-fact news accounts of the day, week or month in text and images. Online publications report news as it happens in text, video, audio, tweets, photos, interactive graphics and other media. They can be updated at a moment’s notice.

3) Consumers now expect to read about news as it happens. Your readers don’t want to wait for your next print publication to find out what the college president said at the press conference or who won the last basketball game. They want to know as the news unfolds.

The Web offers a host of opportunities for covering news as it breaks. Unfortunately, even now many college news organizations fail to take full advantage of the medium. An amazing number of student newspapers still simply “shovel” stories and photos from the print paper without updates or enhancements, remaining slaves to their fixed newspaper deadlines.

I'm not just talking here about "breaking news," the major events that force publications into Web-first publishing mode. I'm talking about game stories, crime reports, theater reviews, news accounts of routine speeches and events.

The good news is it doesn't take a major overhaul to move to a Web-first publishing model. You can do it today. Now. Right this moment.

Take that game story you're holding onto for next week's newspaper and publish it to your website. Tell the music critic reviewing tonight's concert to file the piece right after the event and then have the editor edit and publish it immediately. Better yet, have her tweet her comments and tell readers to look for the review on the website.

This is not to say student journalists should disregard their paper newspapers. Print is not dead and many student publications still get most of their advertising revenue and readers from their print edition. Online and print must work together, each serving their audiences as best they can.

But the more you start to think of yourself as a round-the-clock news source, the more your readers will see you that way and come to look to your website as the go-to destination for news about your community.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poynter: Students prefer print college papers to online

In case you didn't see it, has an interesting column today about how students prefer to read their college papers in print than online.

"I talked with several college newspaper advisors (sic) across the country, and they all said their print newspapers are much more popular than their online versions," Bill Krueger wrote in the column. Krueger interviewed advisers and general managers from The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Indiana Daily Student at Indiana University, The Shorthorn at the University of Texas at Arlington, the College Heights Herald at Western Kentucky University, the Daily Trojan at the University of Southern California.

Virtually all of them said that while traffic to their Web sites is going up, print beats online readership, hands down.

In a Spring 2010 study, Student Monitor, a New Jersey college market research company, found that 63 percent of students surveyed classify themselves as frequent or light readers of the print edition of their campus newspaper.

How about your school -- are students more likely to read your news product in print or online? What can college news organizations do to encourage students to read their online products? Or do you think it's kind of quaint that tech-savvy, iPhone-toting, wired-to-the-max students take a few minutes every week to sit down to read a dead tree?

Localizing national and international stories

An earthquake strikes Chile, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands. The federal government passes new health care legislation that will extend coverage to millions. Israeli and Palestinian leaders gather at an Egyptian resort in an attempt to forge a peace plan. A gunman takes 15 hostages at a college campus halfway across the country.

Every minute, important news stories break around the nation and around the world. Is it the job of your student news organization to cover them?

It depends. Certainly, your primary responsibility is to cover your campus and immediate community. But there are times when you should localize national and international news, putting it into context for your readers. There’s no clear answer on when your news organization should step in, but here are some guidelines and some examples of how student news outlets have covered national and international news.

What kinds of national and international stories should you localize?

Stories that have an impact on your readers. How will the new health care legislation affect your readers? How do students feel about a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage? What do your readers need to know about a national recall of eggs?

Stories that break on another college campus. When a student at California State University, Chico died in a hazing incident, student newspapers around the country took a hard look at fraternity pranks on their own campuses. Suicides, campus shootings, and drinking deaths are other news events that may be worth localizing because such stories are likely to resonate with your readers.

Stories that people are talking about. When Michael Jackson died or Sarah Palin resigned from her position as governor of Alaska, college campuses were abuzz with the news. If a lot of people are talking about an issue, you probably should cover it.

Stories with a local angle. If a current or former student or faculty member makes news, that’s grounds for coverage, even if the story breaks thousands of miles away. When a big story breaks check to see if members of your campus community are planning service or political activities in response.

Stories that affect a particular political, ethnic group or special-interest group on your campus. If you’ve got a sizable LGBT community, there’s likely to be heightened interest in gay rights issues. Does your campus have a large number of immigrants from Mexico, China or another country? Keep a special eye out for news from home that might interest them.

Stories similar to major events that have happened on your campus. When there’s a campus shooting anywhere in the United States, The Collegiate Times pays special attention because such events may spur memories of the shooting at Blacksburg, Va. campus.

What can your news organization add to the coverage? When deciding whether to localize a story think about what your news organization can contribute to the discussion. Will experts on your campus be able to provide analysis or context for what has happened? Will you offer an opportunity for community members to vent on an issue they feel passionate about? Can you report the news in a way that will make it more meaningful to your readers?

How do you find local sources for a national or international story? Social media tools are a good way to start. When a major earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Emily Stephenson, then community manager for The Daily Tar Heel, posted a Facebook message asking if anyone from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill community had been affected. She didn’t expect much response. “As it turned out, the School of Public Health had a student there who was trying to get home, and another student had just returned from a mission trip,” she says. “The second student wound up in the lede of the story.”

Suzanne Yada of The Spartan Daily also struck pay dirt with social media tools after learning that John Patrick Bedell, who had been shot to death after firing at two guards in front of the Pentagon, had attended San Jose State University. Yada, then the online editor for the paper, scoured social media sites looking for information about Bedell and his connection to San Jose State University. “Bedell was quite tech-savvy and had accounts on LinkedIn, Wikipedia and Amazon that mentioned SJSU and revealed more pieces of his character,” she says.

Another strategy for finding sources is to search for campus experts. If a coup breaks out in a distant land, look for professors who have done research on that country and its politics. If a major earthquake strikes, ask your geology department for someone who can explain the science behind seismic activity. Many university public information offices list professors with expertise in particular issues who can speak to the media.

Campus ethnic, religious and service groups may also be good sources for commentary and reaction to national or global news. Leaders of Jewish, Palestinian and Muslim student organization groups will often have comments on new developments in Middle East politics, for example. Think, too, about whether any individuals or groups on your campus may help in rescue efforts or take political action in response to a news event. College service groups often plan fundraisers or service trips to help survivors of natural disasters. Campus political groups may stage political activities in response to an important court ruling, crime or other news event.

If a major newsmaker has a connection to your campus – an alum is appointed to a high-level position or a former student engages in a high-profile crime – try to find professors, students and alumni who knew the person. When Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court, The Daily Princetonian provided extensive coverage of the Princeton alum, providing insights about her political activities and beliefs as an undergraduate. Reporters didn’t have to look too far to find evidence; Kagan had been a news writer and editorial chairman for the “Prince” and had penned a number of unsigned editorials, “many of which took decidedly liberal stances on national and campus issues,” The Daily Princetonian wrote.The Daily Princetonian even republished a column Kagan wrote after the national election of 1980.

Monday, September 13, 2010

NYU and New York Times pair up to cover East Village

The New York Times has paired up with New York University's journalism school to create The Local East Village, a new hyperlocal daily news blog focusing on the East Village.

According to the "Hello Neighbors" message posted on the new website, "The Local is a journalistic collaboration designed to reflect the richness of the East Village, report on its issues and concerns, give voice to its people and create a space for our neighbors to tell stories about themselves."

"It's hyperlocal journalism and figuring out how local journalism works in the age of the Web," NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen says in a video about the project.

The Local East Village is operated by the students and faculty of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, in collaboration with The New York Times, which provides supervision "to ensure that the blog remains impartial, reporting-based, thorough and rooted in Times standards," according to the web site.

"We're going to be right in the neighborhood covering the stories that are important to people who live in the East Village," NYU journalism professor Yvonne Latty said in the video.

The site launched today and will have a kick-off celebration on Sept. 23. Richard G. Jones, a former New York Times reporter, is editor of the site with oversight by Mary Ann Giordano, a deputy metropolitan editor at the Times. They will oversee the coverage. Content will come from NYU students and members of the community.

The site includes a "Virtual Assignment Desk" that allows anyone in the community to propose a story. Community members can also peruse a list of assignments that have been approved by editors and volunteer to take one on. "Story ideas" already on the list include meetings of local community boards and the Police Community Council.

"From the beginning of our discussions with The Times, a consistent mandate from the editors has been to involve the community in production of the site," Rosen wrote in a blog post today about the project. "This had to be pro-am journalism or it wasn’t worth doing. We quickly settled on an ambitious goal: as soon as we could get there, at least half the material should come from people who live in the East Village. That means half the posts authored by the community and half the ideas for what to cover coming from the community."

Jay Rosen shares more thoughts about the project in an interview with PBS MediaShift.

The Local East Village is one of several collaborative community journalism ventures the Times is embarking on. In 2009, The Times launched The Local focusing on the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In January, The Times turned over day-to-day control of the local news blog to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, its partner on the site. The Local remains on The Times’ website.

In May, the Times helped establish The Bay Citizen, which describes itself as "a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to fact-based, independent reporting on civic and community issues in the San Francisco Bay Area." The Bay Citizen produces the editorial content for the Bay Area pages of The Times, which appear on Friday and Sunday in local editions of the newspaper. The Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is another partner in that project.

In the Media Decoder column for the Times, Richard Pérez-Peña wrote "The Local blogs stand as an example of a fast-growing trend of mainstream news organizations farming out some of their reporting to outsiders. New organizations like ProPublica, Politico, Global Post and, among others, have supplied articles to newspapers. Such arrangements can provide relatively low-cost reporting for cash-strapped papers, but at times they have also raised questions about how established news organizations can vouch for the credibility of less well-known start-ups."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Twitter Tips for College Media Organizations

Twitter is a great tool for promoting content, engaging readers and building community. But poorly phrased tweets, offensive content or too many automated posts can alienate readers. Here are some pointers for making the most of your news organization’s Twitter presence.

1. Set up a profile.
Establish a profile that includes your news organization’s name, basic information, a web address and an image, probably your logo. Select a user name, probably a variation of your news organization’s name or a commonly recognized nickname (such as IDSnews for the Indiana Daily Student’s news account).

2. Follow, don’t just lead. Follow as many people and organizations linked to your school and your town as you can find – school officials, professors, teams, clubs, nearby businesses, alumni, staff and individual students. (To follow a person or organization, simply click a button on their profile that allows you to subscribe to their Twitter feed.) The more people you follow the more you’ll know what’s going on in your community -- and the better you’ll be able to develop an audience. One place to find sources is CampusTweet, a Twitter directory of college students, faculty and alumni organized by school.

3. Make it a conversation. Don’t just push out links to your content; ask readers what they think about the new football coach or the controversial cartoon in your paper this week like this tweet from The Hustler at Vanderbilt University:
First-year students: what did you think of orientation? Reply to @hustlernews and let us know!

4. Proofread your posts. There’s no excuse for misspellings and grammatical errors. You’ve only got 140 characters; make sure each one is correct.

5. Report news as it breaks. Twitter is a powerful vehicle for reporting breaking news. Even if you don’t have the complete story you can quickly alert readers to urgent news as it unfolds and then point them to your website for more information like this post from The Battalion at Texas A&M University:

Tornado warning--tornado activity near College Station moving toward campus. Seek shelter immediately.

6. Shorten your URLs. Every character counts in a Twitter post. Use free Web-based services like, or to compress Web page addresses.

7. Cover sports live.
Use Twitter to post scores and other developments at big games like this tweet from the Mustang Daily at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo:
Doug Shumway connects with Dominique Johnson on a 25-yard TD pass to put the Mustangs up 35-20.

8. Retweet. Send out interesting comments or news alerts from other news organizations or Twitters that would interest your readers. Simply click on the “retweet” button that shows up when you slide your mouse over the bottom-right corner of each tweet. Here's an example from The New Hampshire at the University of New Hampshire:
Living off campus this year? This @fostersdailydem article about new ordinance changes in Durham is a must read. #UNH

9. Make your tweets useful. Your Twitter feed should be a go-to place not just for news alerts but for resources your readers will be interested in. Is there a new sushi bar in town? Tweet it! Is today the first day to register for fall parking permits? It may not be worth a news story, but it warrants a tweet. The California Aggie at the University of California, Davis ran this tweet:
The US Bank branch located in the Memorial Union opened for business today.

10. Alert readers to your coverage. If you’re sending a reporter to an out-of-state game or planning to liveblog the Board of Regents meeting, let your readers know as The Daily Orange at Syracuse University did:

Can't catch the game? Read live updates on Twitter RIGHT NOW

11. Ask for news tips. Remind your readers you want to hear from them as The Tower at Catholic University of America did with this tweet:
got news for us? email or tweet us.

12. Promote campus events. Let your readers know what’s going on as it happens like this tweet from The Daily Sundial, California State University Northridge:
Temporary tattoos, laser tag, fortune tellers, caricature's all going on right now at matador nights!

13. Use hashtags. Set up a hashtag -- a # sign followed by a keyword (“#SFSU” or “#Big10”) for your school and for major stories to make it easy for readers to follow you and the issues you’re covering. From The State Press at Arizona State University:
Tired of expensive textbooks? #ASU launched a book printing service at the #Tempe campus

14. Consider setting up multiple Twitter accounts. You may want to establish separate Twitter feeds for certain sections, such as sports, A&E and news, or for certain people, like the editor-in-chief, a columnist or a beat writer. But don’t set up too many; you don’t want to fractionalize your audience. If you’ve got multiple Twitter feeds, you may want to put a Twitter directory on your website to make it easier for readers to find the Twitter account they want.

15. Keep private information private.
Your news organization’s Twitter feed is not the place to post your reaction to last night’s date. If you want to tweet about your personal life, do it on your own Twitter account.

16. Tweet interesting facts.
Got a tidbit that’s not worth a full story? Report it in a tweet like this one from
The Daily Athenaeum at West Virginia University:
A record crowd of 41,382 people attended tonight's game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Stadium capacity is 38,016.

17. Respond to your audience.
Let readers know you’re listening to them. If readers tweet to your news organization, make sure someone responds. To answer a message, click on the “reply” button that shows up when you move your mouse over the bottom-right corner of each tweet.

18. Recruit. Let your readers know when you’re looking for a cartoonist or taking on new writers like this open invitation from
The Breeze, at James Madison University:
Breeze open house tonight at 7 p.m. Come learn more info and get involved!

19. Solve mysteries. If people are wondering why there are three police cars outside the Humanities Building or why the cafeteria is closing early tonight, let them know. Here The Daily Californian at UC Berkeley explains why helicopters were flying over the campus:

Helicopters above campus just now are filming a BBC documentary on earthquake faults, according to campus public affairs

20. Correct errors immediately.
If you make a mistake or if something you reported turns out not to be true, put out the correction on Twitter as soon as you can like this post from The Famuan at Florida A&M University:
Tear gas, NOT gunshots fired in response to series of fights in front of student services center.

21. Don’t punch out all your tweets in one blast. Unless you’re covering a breaking story you should tweet throughout the day.

22. Tweet photos. As of this writing, you can’t tweet photos directly from Twitter, but you can tweet links to photos on services like Twitpic, Pikchur and Plixi.

23. Use Twitter judiciously.
Don’t tweet every story you publish or post every thought that enters your brain. Consider whether your readers would care.