Can you design a campus news/social media studio?

(Updated Aug. 22 with new final paragraph)

(Updated Sept. 5 with another new final paragraph)

A truly inspired Vanderbilt University student media video among the College Media Association Pinnacle Award finalists got me thinking more about an idea I’ve kicked around recently.

The idea: A “studio” at the busiest point on campus where your student media outlet engages readers, gathers news and sparks conversation. Below are some bare-bones specs. I hope you’ll help flesh it out with some big ideas.

But first, the video: a Vandy student walks around campus asking people, “What do you do that’s awesome?”


This is the kind of question I can imagine being posed every day at my imaginary studio.

I envision a horseshoe desk, say in the middle of the student center. It would start with:

  • One BIG monitor displaying a social media “talk” feed (Facebook + whatever platforms work for you). Part of that feed might be a question of the day (“what do you do that’s awesome?”). Near the monitor is a journalist who maintains that feed, talks with everyone who wanders up, takes and posts photos of some of those people, encourages them to post, etc.
  • One BIG monitor displaying a news feed (Twitter + whatever platforms work for you). And one staff member who’s charged with taking news tips and keeping up with what’s happening on campus RIGHT NOW. (So, yes, this person may leave to go check out something.)
  • A BIG touchscreen monitor where readers could navigate the website and social media feed. (Really, I’d want more than one of these, plus some scattered around campus showing the social media feeds and home page.)

The journalists would be present during whatever the prime hours are on your campus.

So what else would you include at my studio at Imaginary University, where you can buy anything you want and staff it with as many students as you want?  I haven’t touched TV, radio, music, live performance, giveaways or great stuff I’m sure student media outlets already are doing. I hope to hear either your concrete examples or your wild ideas.

If you’re interested, here are two further thoughts:

1. Personnel. The Vandy video really brought home for me that the “talk” social media person has to be a “host” as well as a journalist. Even without video, it takes a “host” personality to keep the discussion going and engage the people who wander up to the studio. Not every journalist wants to do this, but I think a lot do. In my dream setup, these “hosts” would come from a unit within student media devoted to promoting discussion on all platforms.

The journalists for the news feed would come from a unit devoted to breaking news, defined broadly to include a blood drive, Spanish club fundraiser, etc. And probably both of these units would be part of a “wire service” serving all student media platforms.

2. Minimum daily requirements. Here’s an old post of mine with thoughts on figuring out what a digital outlet must do every day — and then doing it.

UPDATE Aug. 22: Watching my Atlanta Braves playing at St. Louis just now, the announcers pointed out a live poll on the stadium scoreboard. Fans could text A, B or C to cast their vote (for favorite retired Braves player). The display was a simple bar chart with percentages, and the bars moved in real time as the votes came in. That would work at the studio! (Hmm, the adviser in me also now wonders if I could sell sponsorships for something like that.)

UPDATE Sept. 5: A tweet directed me to this cool idea from Knight Journalism Fellow Latoya Peterson: Use cheap tools to project news onto public surfaces. I’d definitely want to add this to my studio, especially when I wanted to make the studio mobile.

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Posted on August 21, 2013, in Digital/social, What to cover. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. David,

    Sounds like you want to create a student version of the public-facing places created by Advance Digital, Digital First Media and the Guardian’s coffee shop. (http://www.theguardian.com/gnm-press-office/guardiancoffee-brings-open-journalism-to-life-in-east-london)

    These experiments are all relatively new, but I imagine the organizations already have a notion of what’s working and what isn’t. And a comparison of their experiences with a similar set-up in a campus environment would be interesting.

  2. John,

    Thanks for commenting. I do love these public-facing newsrooms (or bureaus) and absolutely should steal best practices from them. On a campus, I think we’ll be using physical presence to try to drive social media engagement more than finding story ideas. Students probably won’t offer story ideas as often a coffee shop crowd in a small community might. But they might pull out their phones and add a comment to the conversation on the big screen in front of them. And of course every minute they spend even looking at our studio builds awareness that we are a news source.

    David

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