College Newspapers – Confessions of a Community College Dean

I’m all for training students in fact-gathering, clear writing, and
getting a sense of the outside world. But I’m wondering if the
time-honored student newspaper is still the best way to do that.

Has
your campus found a more contemporary way to get students the benefits
that newspapers used to offer? Maybe a way that doesn’t automatically
doom them to the ashbin of history? — Dean Dad, Inside Higher Ed

Here’s the comment I just submitted:

At the first meeting of a journalism class this past January, I tore up a copy of the student paper.

I’m the adviser for that paper, so I softened the blow a bit by first assuring the students that I thought it was a good issue — well designed, with accurate and lively content — and that it was serving its on-campus audience well.  We have no intentions of dropping the print edition, or even scaling it back. But I did feel the need to dramatize the deep, permanent changes that journalism had undergone during the past year.

I was hired in 2003 to start a “new media journalism” program at a small, private liberal arts school.  Our NMJ students regularly blog, and I’ve taught classes on podcasting, web design, and gaming culture.  Our program aims to provide students with core writing skills and transferable new media skills — not the least of which being how to use a complex software tool, and the ability to integrate several such tools (and whatever new tools they will encounter after they graduate) with their core writing skills.

Even in the middle of a huge shakedown in the journalism business, our recent graduates have been hired in the past year at a major network in New York, and at a community daily here in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Some have found jobs in related fields (technical writing, editorial assistant, paralegal), while others have opted to use their skills in grad school or the Peace Corps.

Combining words and technology can be a tough sell; some of our best writers in the program have made it known that they can hardly stand computers.  But I refuse to prepare students for a profession that will not exist by the time they graduate.