Day 2: What can — and should — be the role of universities collaborating with local media partners to report local news?
3:52PM Jun 20, 2023
So now I'm really excited.
Because I also work in a university setting to welcome Richard Watts and Sarah Guevara to tell us about how universities and students are becoming really important partners and local news around the United States. So Richard and Sarah, come on up, floors, yours. Yeah. If you want to stand there sit there. Just awesome. Just turn your microphone on when you sit down.
Good morning. I'm Sarah, I was a was a researcher for the center of community news last fall. I'm no longer with the senator of community news. But I'm here to talk with Richard today about a project that I worked on with him about news academic partnerships, basically, partnerships where a university will have a class or an academic program that is directly working with a news organization or multiple news organizations to provide them content, as news organizations are shrinking, because that's probably an accurate way to say it, right. And you were a student reporter, I also was a student reporter, that part of one of these programs and I went on to become a journalist for many years. And yeah, I'll leave it over to you, Richard.
Great. Well, thank you all. We are going to talk about university led student reporting programs. And shout out to Stefanie, we've been at this for about a year. And from the beginning, her Center has been enormously helpful. And Stefanie herself, personally has been so encouraging as we build this network, really, of universities who are engaged in student reporting programs, I'm going to do just a really brief overview of what we're talking about. And then Sarah is going to dive into details about the 20. University led Statehouse reporting programs because of course, covering state houses these days is so important.
But first of all, by the way, how many people here actually partner or collaborate in some way with a university? Okay. Fabulous. So you all can chime in, we are definitely going to save time for questions and thoughts. But at the core of this idea is that universities, and here I use University broadly, I'm including colleges, community colleges, institutions of higher learning, universities have a responsibility to step in, and bring our resources which are enormous. To address the crisis in local news. We're losing two community newspapers a week, 80 million Americans live in places without adequate news, all of us live in places where it's hard to find out what's going on from some authentic, trusted source. Universities have enormous resources. And we need, we need to be participants in this in so many ways, in our resources, not don't just include our students, which are exceptional. It's the space, I mean, look at this place that we're in right here. It's access to space. It's our faculty, and not just the faculty who are doing managing programs like this, which I'll talk about in a second. But the research that they're doing, and they're thinking they're doing in this time, they have to think about and engage in these issues. And it's the access to money. Universities are very good at raising money. And we have tremendous alumni support. Many of us are very old. And not just me here on the stage. But really hundreds of years old, and we have, you know, vast networks of alumni who like to give money to their university. So that's the big picture. Universities need to step in. The project that we're managing is called the Center for Community News. And the mission is twofold. On one hand, document, university lead student reporting programs so that others can see what others are doing and learn from each other, and then encourage, encourage more of them. And at the end here, I'm going to give you a pitch for for a particular one related to what Sarah is going to talk about. These are not internships. So you may sort of have in your head, the idea of the internship model where you went and were interned at a media organization, a lot of those have evaporated as media resources have declined. These are university led in the sense that there's a faculty member or a staff person at the university who is managing the students who is betting their content who is cooperating with the local media. platform to assign and review the stories that the students are producing. And to put a human face on that just for a second. There's at least five or six people here who are running these programs. Just stand for a second if you're here, Elizabeth, I see you, Mizzou. Marcy amplify in the University of Utah, Toby Rosenthal, University of Stockton, Jerry, right here in the front row, University of Maryland, Kathleen, best university of maryland, also the Howard center, Frances garland Point Park University. So as I went through the attendees, you can see Allison Jones, Duke University, these are the people who are managing them. And they all all are former reporters and editors. So they have lots and lots of experience. And then they also like, obviously working with young people, so and I saw at least two partners that I know are working closely with universities, many of you are, it sounds like but the voice of Orange County, and Civil Beat in Hawaii. Alright, a few things on the attributes, and I'm gonna turn it over to Sarah. So if you're thinking about or collaborating with the university or want to do more, as we've reviewed these, we've identified about 120 of these programs around the country that map if you went to our website, the map would tell you about each of those, there'd be more information about them. They're all different shapes and sizes. Mostly they're run out of the academic program. So their classes advanced reporting classes, English classes, Poli Sci class is, sometimes they're managed internship programs. That's what we do at the University of Vermont. Again, not external internships, but we manage the interns and do all the editing and vetting some of the attributes, as you think about what's key or core to working with a university partner. Number one, our mission is educational. So we think about this as training students to be citizens in democracy, to engage in communities, to learn how it works, they may go on to be reporters, not all of them are going to go on to be reporters, but they're going to have these amazing skills that you all have in going to a meeting and being able to take the important information and summarize important subjects into clear accessible language. So educational, we don't see this as replacing the reporters, we've lost, this is one part of the solution. But again, our first submission is educational. Other ways have to step in also to keep maintaining that sort of institutional journalism base that we need and have always at the university, there's a faculty champion. So there's somebody at the university, which are super complicated places, who knows how to navigate the university draw down the resources that exist, so you need to find and work with that faculty champion. And third, this kind of work aligns completely with what we all say is our mission. And that is applied experiential, educational learning experiences for our students, these partnerships are a way to meet that. So what you're doing benefits, the university and the university's mission and our commitment to public service. Most of us particularly as public universities, but also the private. It's in our mission, that we should be doing things like this. So doing these types of collaborations helps us meet that mission. And of course, the PR, that comes with doing this work authentically, is really important to us. Many of us get money through public sources. So being able to say that we're doing good work is essential. So again, those are just some of the ways that all of these different collaborations and media University led reporting programs are at the core of them. They range in size from small to big, they're all different sizes and shapes. And Sarah is going to talk about a really important subset of these university Statehouse led reporting programs. So yes,
Richard advised me not to go on a tangent because I typically do because I'm very passionate about the subject. So I'll try to keep it brief. And then we can open it up for questions. But this is a map, Richard, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a map of all the news academic partnerships that you guys have identified so far. So I'm going to talk about a specific subset.
I made this map I'm sorry that it's not the same as the other met. But this I'm gonna talk about a specific subset, which is like Richard mentioned, US academic partnerships that are specifically the model is specifically where a universe
City will create essentially a student bureau in the statehouse that the college is near. And when I say near, sometimes it's a block away. And in the case of the University of Florida, it's a three hour drive. And the students have to say, at a rival schools campus the night of its, there's so many ways to do it. But anyway, as you can see, so the yellow is the states where we have identified programs like this. So Louisiana, Texas, Montana, all over the map, the green, Utah, that program is on hold. But that program does, it has existed, I think during the pandemic, they hit a revenue issue, and then they're thinking about doing it again. But all of these programs, we call all of them, right, I called I think most of them and then some of the other researchers on the project called them. And we talked it out with the directors, some of the students just to get a feel for, for what the models are, what the models are like. And we found that pretty much every single one is is actually quite different. The different number of students different number of news outlets, it's basically choose your own adventure, you just need a state house, some students and ideally in a veteran editor who now works in academia. A lot of these guys, a lot of editors that are working with these students are, you know, they've been at the Washington Post for 20 years, they've been at the New York Times for years, they've been at the APA, these are veteran editors who know what they're doing. And they can help guide the students who report Real News. And I think a point I want to drive home here. I think this is the case with all the news, academic partnerships with at least the ones that we researched for this project. These are substantive programs. These are not this is not student media. This is not like just a class this these are. These are students who are going into the Statehouse sitting in in the committee meetings going to the governor's speeches covering regular letters, legislative sessions, covering special sessions when there's a budget crisis, reporting actual news sharing press row with the professionals. And that news is getting published in newspapers that want to partner with these universities. And it's it's high stakes. I mean, you're you're interviewing your lawmakers, you're interviewing your state officials, you're interviewing the constituents, if there's a protest, you have to cover it. It's and it's really, I don't know how many people ever have been a Statehouse reporter but it's it's really It's chaos. It's absolute chaos. And so I think
you should say that you went on to be your as Sarah was a state house student reporter at LSU for two years. Yeah, I can tell that story. Yeah. So I was Emily, we pass out those Yeah. Oh, yeah, Emily's gonna pass out a little pamphlet that we made. But just for what it's worth, I'll tell you kind of my personal journey through this. So I was a student, student reporter at Louisiana State University, Go Tigers,
in 2016 2017, and 2018. So 2016, my sophomore year, I decided I want to be a journalist. I had the calling that we all did. And I joined the student media. And they put me on the crime reporter beat I hated every second of it. I wanted out like immediately. And I wasn't I was I was writing stories. But I was about to quit. And then I was about to quit and say goodbye to it forever. And one of the professors saw that I had a lot of drive for it. And he called me into his office. And he said, we've started this new program at LSU, where we are going to have basically it's a student run bureau in the statehouse. And we'd like you to join, it's inclusive, you have to be invited. And this will be a great opportunity for you even if you don't want to work in government. And I was like, Absolutely not. I want nothing to do with this. I hate I hated politics. I had, like I was so I had such an aversion to politics, I definitely didn't want to be a crime reporter. And I hated the idea of of doing hard news in in a state house with a bunch of empty suits. And I just didn't want to do it. I was very intimidated. And I knew nothing about government. I at the time, I'm not even exaggerating, I was not totally confident in how many branches of government there were I was very uneducated in the field of politics and government. It was how many are there? There's three.
I know that now. But I really knew nothing. I didn't know the role of the governor. I didn't know the role of the legislature, I just I was very woefully under educated and so therefore very scared of of being set up to fail in front of an audience of readers. And I was really just not comfortable in it. But I had to fulfill it for a capstone, which usually is what these these classes do is go make it a capstone project. And so you have to do it. Or you have to pick something else. And so I was basically forced into it. Because I didn't want to do the other capstones. And I was like, Alright, whatever I'll do, I'll do one semester of it. I'll get it over with I'll do the bare minimum. And then I'm out and I'm not I'm not doing this ever again. I just had to get my degree. And the first night was the man who was running it the editor for the Bureau. His name is Jay Shalini. I think some of you know him, is a famous name in the journalism world in local journalism world. He's from Utah. But anyway, he was a professor at LSU. At the time he was running the Bureau and the The first night that we got there, it was the opening of a special session because Louisiana was in this huge budget crisis. And I was just scared out of my mind because I knew I had to write write up the Governor's speech and file it on time for the actual newspapers in the area, like the love of the mortgage net or the you know, the Shreveport times the advocate nola.com, things like that. And within like, within like two hours, I was just suddenly feeling so at home there because I had the guidance of a great editor and I had a great team and I got hooked before the end of the first day, and I went on to not only finish out that semester, but then work the rest of the summer covering the session, I ended up getting an internship at politico within three months, just because of the clips I had gotten through that class. And then I went on and repeated that class next semester, the next year. So I voluntarily repeated the class without like, without needing to I just, it was like an extracurricular at that point. And then I went on to work for an insider Louisiana publication covering the Statehouse after I graduated. And then eventually I got hired as the the lead Statehouse reporter at the biggest newspaper in Delaware at 23. Because of all my clips that I had, that I had gotten at LSU. And yeah, none of that would have happened if I hadn't been forced into that class. Yeah,
let's get say something about your day job today. And then let's leave we have 10 minutes or so we'd love to hear from anybody any questions you have or Yeah,
yeah, no, now I actually so I left reporting. Sometime during the pandemic to pursue a personal goal I attempted to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. I just I was so burned out during the pandemic and staring at a screen so I left to go live in the woods. And yeah, I hiked from Georgia to Maine. Oh, thanks. That was seven months. And then they tell you that they like the idea was I wanted to think about my career and think about what to do next. That did not happen. I was so busy thinking about my next water source. And where I was going to sleep every night. Anyway. Yeah. So then I got back. And then I was I was out of a job and actively looking and Chris Drew, former New York Times reporter who's running the LSC program. Now you called him talking about your research. And I think you were, I think you were very open about looking for some extra help. And Chris was like, I know someone who'd be perfect and is unemployed. And so you, you hired me for this part time gig. And it was really fun. It was just fun calling all these places and figuring out new things about these programs. And this is just a rundown of all the programs that we found. And as you can see on the far right, it's really choose your own adventure. It's as many students as you want, as many news outlets that are willing to participate, you really can just do it however you want. And if you don't see your state up here, you should talk to someone.
It's awesome. Right? And that's what we want to pitch for just a second and do step up. If you have a question or comment. We have seven and a half minutes left, if I'm reading this, right, Stephanie? Yeah, the the there's 19 states with I think it's seven theme, but member to new. All right, Sara did the research for us to stepped up. That leaves 31 states that don't have a university led student reporting program, if you know anybody in those states, if that's any interest to you see, one of these gets started. Have them be in touch with us or whatever. We're building a cohort. Elizabeth at Mizzou is kindly hosting a mini conference just really limited to people who want to grow these. We count 300,000 students within 10 miles of these state capitals. So the resource is potentially there. Questions or comments? There's a few.
Hi, good morning. I'm Molly bloom with the Center for Sustainable journalism at Kennesaw State University publisher of fresh take Georgia. And you today. Wow. And welcome. Thank you. Can you talk about how different universities are funding these programs? Sure.
It's all over the map. I mean, I think some of them are getting grants. And some of them I think are relying on donations and some I think are pulling directly from their budgets, or it's a combination of the two.
Yeah, I mean, again, one, I one interesting thing about universities bringing our resources to this is we actually have a funding model that sustainable students pay tuition. And instead of paying tuition to take history, pay tuition to take a reporting class. And your stories are also published. You build the network's you get the clips that might be helpful to you, but it's also real life. And students really want I think we heard that from Sarah. agency. They want to know the stuff they're doing matters. And you can sit in a lot of classes and write papers that go nowhere. or you can sit in a class where your work is actually published and you're contributing to
local news. And democracy is better for it. So
one core way of funding is just use the regular model that we have, then all of us are good at fundraising, extra money, grants, foundations, alumni is the biggest source and lowest hanging fruit that we all have access to. It's just a matter of getting our university to consider it a priority and Kennesaw, by the way, amazing, amazing growth. I mean, I got to visit that and what you're doing there. One other thing that universities can do is provide space for the center's I think, the senator Crapo journalism is one example of that. So it's not just the student parts, please.
Well, I'm very excited to sit here your presentation, because I've been thinking about how to approach the colleges to create some kind of relationship. I'm hoping that you'll tell me, yes, we have a canned program, you can customize this stuff and send it to the presidents of these universities, and create a kind of two way relationship between local news organization and the colleges. You have such a thing.
Again, there's so different in every place, but what we do have is 100 case studies, 100 faculty, who will be excited to talk to you, and building out resources for faculty at all levels, syllabi, models, so yes, call me please. And the other thing that we're always happy to do is call your university officials and say, You should do one of these, if that's helpful, but really, it's offered finding that faculty member, as we know from the faculty here, who who will be your champion.
Hi, Ella striker from East Lansing info. I'm in the town with Michigan State University. And I used to be an academic, I was a traditional PhD academic in history of science. And I started a newspaper for my own town because we had none. And I hate to be a bummer, but I have to tell you trying to work with the student journalists at MSU is often a case where they just don't have any content knowledge. And I'm hoping you could talk a little bit about the problem of sending students into situations where they have no content knowledge. Yeah. Because my experience is that when I'm recruiting reporters for Eli, my organization, I'm much better off actually recruiting economics faculty, and environmental faculty and land use faculty and getting them to be reporters for us, because they have the content knowledge that makes them able to keep up with what's really going on in the government.
Well, that's the that's part of it is part of it's going to depend on the editor that the student has, I think a lot of these programs do really well, because the editors know how to work with students who are not familiar with the beat, you're inherently going to get reporters through these student bureaus who are not they don't have years of experience, they're their cubs. But you need someone in those committee rooms, doing the little things like covering the weedy stuff covering the committee hearings, that the actual professional reporters who are there everyday don't have time to cover. The whole point is that there's there's, there's newspapers across the country who typically when they have when they do layoffs, Statehouse reporters are some of the first to go if any of you are Statehouse reporters, or have been seen as reporters, you're probably familiar with us when I was the Statehouse reporter I saw this firsthand. And multiple state houses, they there's just so few staffers that are that are there and have boots on the ground and just covering the important debates. I mean, this is like state houses where marijuana is being legalized is where the anti trans bills are being debated. That's the real stuff is happening there. And usually there's only one Statehouse reporter, if any Statehouse reporter from these major news outlets. So really, I think the the better model, to me is not relying on them to do the enterprise stuff, necessarily, but covering little things that people still should be following.
And I'll just add kudos to you to reaching out beyond the journalism program. We should not limit this in any way to the journalism programs. We don't have a journalism program at University of Vermont. But we are we have 30 students this semester, we're doing 300 Plus stories. The other thing is that we have a professional editor that we pay in between, so it isn't totally dependent on that publication. We are providing the stuff to standards.
Hi, Carrie Mitchell from Dallas, free press. And we work with a lot of other newsrooms and universities in Dallas to the media collaborative and we're working through the idea of building a pathway from high schools to newsrooms because our newsrooms do not reflect our city and there's all kinds of other issues there. I think a question on a lot of our minds who are running newsrooms, and one that's come up a lot over the last decade or so is how do we do this equitably? How do we not put too much burden on not necessarily the universities I think most of us are made Be okay with burdening universities, but but the students themselves, you know, how do we make sure that, you know, we understand that they're young and their training and their learning. But how do we look at, you know, when when is it time to really pay them? Well, and how do we do that? And how do we think about that, and in a way that supports those students who want to work in newsrooms later, how have you guys grappled with that? Oh, yeah,
I mean, actually, it's something I forgot to mention is a lot of these, a lot of these programs are paying the students. I was paid, I think $15 an hour, which for me was I was like rolling in money. Because the minimum wage in Louisiana is still 725. So yeah, I actually quit my quit my weekend job rolling burritos at a burrito shack. And I was able to do that, because I was I was I took this class and I got hired during the summer. There's also stipends, I think there's also travel funds. Again, it's Choose Your Own Adventure, every college does it differently. But they're most of these I think it's fair, most of these programs are either they're being paid in credit. And you know, they're paying the tuition in order to do that. But when I think it's when it goes beyond class time, and when it goes beyond the hours that are expected of a normal class, I think typically they are paid.
We'll take two more, but really thoughtful question, it will take some time to really think about it. But we have students who, for example, covered the transgender debate in Montana before it became national news. We have students who are covering the attacks on diversity in higher ed, while they're students in classes. So there's all sorts of issues that we have to think about, that students are grappling with in a serious way. So it's a really thoughtful question that we should take some time to think about.
Hi, I'm Chloe Rollins from basically news. And one of the hats that I wear there is that I lead our team of data journalists. And that has involved a lot of training of interns and student partners that we have, which has been amazing, but it's also involved, training our full time, mid and late career journalists staff. And I'm curious if you think there are more opportunities for feeding the pipeline both ways offering younger students opportunities to learn in journalism newsrooms, and from journalists, but also extending University we resources to establish journalists or older journalists for continued education.
So agree in some universities are stepping up and starting to do programs like that, pay for a weekend retreat or a week long. So agree, and let's see if I can help you connect with others who are thinking about that, or how we could make that happen. Because the resources that I'm talking about extend in all sorts of ways that we have and should be bringing to this.
You Yuri Chan, from Microsoft start actually want to add to Chloe, funny story is that she's training some of my old colleagues from the newsroom that I used to work out in the in the 90s. So thank you. My question is, how do you train students to deal with audience and reader reactions, especially online, ranging from the positive to the toxic?
Well, how does any journalist get used to it? I mean, you just go through it, I think, I think you're warned ahead of time, like you understand when you go into it, that it's going to be heated, and it's going to be a lot, but you either go through it in college before you sacrifice your life to journalism, or you learn it when it's too late. And I think it's just, it really is all learning by doing I mean, I didn't know how to interview the Governor at 20 years old until I did. And I didn't know how to write investigative stories until I did. So I think that's it's a very valid question. But really, any, no matter how old you are, it's, it's not good for your mental health. So it's really it's just a it's a, unfortunately, a what I don't want to call it unnecessary evil, but it's just something that comes with the job that I think no matter what your age is, you just have to experience it and learn how to deal with it, and then hopefully have a good network to support you through it.
And I'll say, the one last take home that I think you probably have heard here. But these programs are all run by experienced reporters and editors who do think about those things, I think thoughtfully in systems and structures that support it, what we need to do is get more more universities involved. So if we can help you reach out to anybody, or think about how more thoughtfully we're partnering, but we just need, there's 2500 for your colleges and universities, there's about 120, who may be actively involved in this space. So help us keep thinking about doing that.
Could I make one more plug? Real quick. I just want to I just want to real quickly say so after I worked for Richard, I went on I currently work at a nonprofit that is growing, we're funded by the Knight Foundation and we were provide a whistleblower support. So I just want to make a plug that make you guys make sure you guys know that we exist. We're called the signals network. And I'm happy to talk to you guys about it. If you're interested. We if you have a source who's facing an NDA, or is at risk of getting fired or killed or sued or whatever, and they're afraid of talking to the press, you can hand sober, hand them over to us and we have a lawyer on staff. We have multiple lawyers on staff, and we provide safety support, security, support, community support, things like that. So, thanks. Thank
you. Yes, thank you. And I also want to say like Richard, I know you gave me a shout out the beginning for being helpful but Richard is incredibly helpful and so responsive and so if you are thinking about approaching a university, your town I would highly recommend that you reach out because this man will help you so thank you both. And you know, Vera do your question too that just makes me think like, you know, we ought to offer like university should be thinking about that. That should be something that we we have for students is some like mental health coaching and and Michelle Fourier her troll busters does some of that like coaching and some training about how to deal with the assholes online for your mental health.