Monthly Archives: July 2012

This semester, power up your opinion page

One of the sessions we’ve just lined up for the National College Media Convention in Chicago is just too good to keep under wraps. So I asked the presenter, Judy Gibbs Robinson, to give us a peek at the idea so you can use it now, at the start of the semester.

Judy is the editorial adviser for The Oklahoma Daily and Her students have increased the impact of their opinion pages by focusing on a clear goal each semester. In spring 2012, they zeroed in on gender equality. The paper even devoted an entire front page to an editorial for gender-neutral housing.

Judy’s Chicago session will be called “Using Your Bully Pulpit: How a Clear Editorial Mission Can Boost the Power of your Opinion Page.” Here’s her (exclusive!) preview to help you get started immediately.

Why you must use Google Alerts

If the president of your college turns up as a finalist in a presidential search 1,000 miles away, how soon do you want to know? If your answer is anything other than “now, of course,” perhaps this student media thing is not for you.

So, stop what you’re doing and write “CREATE GOOGLE ALERTS” on whatever serves as your to-do list. (Don’t have a to-do list? Better get one before your adviser finds out.)

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Better photography NOW!


Look at the pile of student newspapers on the exchange tables at the next National College Media Convention. I predict that the No. 1 characteristic of the “bad” papers you see will be bad photography. This is especially sad because you don’t need to be an experienced photographer to make immediate improvements.

Disclosure: I came of age when a reporter (me) almost never was asked to take a photo. When it comes to recognizing bad photography, I identify with Justice Potter Stewart‘s famous description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.” But I’ve learned in recent years that student news organizations now have the advantage of novice-ready cameras and, more importantly, wonderful online resources to improve technique.

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Listening to the news haters

Admit it. You think some of the students on your campus are just too apathetic or oblivious to become consumers of your product. You’re right. And if you spend a significant amount of time trying to interest them, that’s time you could have spent far more productively serving your actual audience.

But what about the students who think they are too smart for news? For instance, when a blogger for young professionals opined this week that it’s wise to read news every day,  the first reader response I saw was:

This has to be one of the most idiotic articles I have read in the past month. … News are, first of all, digested information that is created mainly for the purpose of keeping people hooked, to make them read more news. Truly neutral and investigative journalism is in short supply. Fox news might be an obvious example of this, but it does not mean that CNN, NY Times, or any other outlet doesn’t have their own agenda. 

Can we get this news-hater into our campus media audience? Maybe. And at least we can learn something by listening for a few minutes.

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Helping the “shy” love tough stories

There’s an interesting discussion going on at a LinkedIn group for college newspaper editors about problems getting newer student reporters to tackle controversial stories. I’ll bet you know the feeling: a new recruit has done a good job on some light features and shows a lot of promise. But when you start talking to him about a campus controversy (or any story where two sources disagree), he starts backing out of the newsroom and mumbling about homework.

At this point, you must repress your Type A Perry White personality, which is screaming, “This guy will never make it!” This guy may become a great journalist (Clark Kent, if not Superman). Your job is to help him.

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Wanted: Election coverage ideas

Here’s a chance for student editors to contribute to an upcoming article in College Media Review, the journal for media advisers. The managing editor, Debra Chandler Landis of University of Illinois Springfield, posted a request on the College Media Association listserv, which I’m passing along with her permission.

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A shout-out to the sleepy at MSCNE

The country’s foremost college editor training program is going on this week at the University of Georgia. Sixty-four top editors from 30 states are spending all day in classes at the Management Seminar for College News Editors. And judging from the #mscne12 Twitter hashtag, they’re spending most of the night hanging out.

Which brings me to a fond MSCNE memory.

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The boss among friends: try laughter and hats

A fascinating theory about why humans laugh got me thinking about student media leaders. In “How the Mind Works,” Steven Pinker describes research showing that friends laugh a lot, even though they usually don’t say anything particularly funny. Pinker theorizes that laughter is a signal that “I’m not trying to dominate you.”

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