Protecting student journalism that serves democracy

By Jonathan Peters
This is the front end of an essay I co-authored with Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.  The essay appeared in full Friday in The Atlantic. Follow me @jonathanwpeters on Twitter.

This is not your father’s journalism industry.

NBC News has a Storify page, the New York Times has a Tumblr, and PBS has a Pinterest board. The Associated Press has built a partnership with dozens of news companies to collect royalties from aggregators. The Wall Street Journal has produced original videos for YouTube, and the people formerly known as the audience can submit photos to CNN through its iPhone app.

This is a journalism industry in which the production of news is widely dispersed and the traditional media are reinventing themselves to survive in the digital world. The ongoing challenge, as clearly expressed in 2009 in the Columbia Journalism Review, is to preserve independent reporting while the economic foundation of newspapers, the chief source of such reporting, continues to erode.

While the traditional media adapt to their changing circumstances, student journalists are playing a more vital role than ever before. Campus-based publications, and student collaborations with professional news outlets, are filling in gaps created by the traditional media’s decline. They’re informing the public, covering the states and towns where the schools are located (and beyond). These reporting enterprises come in all shapes and sizes.

Arizona State University operates the Cronkite News Service, which allows students to cover public affairs in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix. Ohio University operates the Statehouse News Bureau, which offers students a paid internship to cover public affairs in Ohio’s capital city. Boston University operates the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, which teams up professional journalists with student researchers to produce long-form stories. And nearly every school in the nation is home to a student newspaper that covers local and campus affairs, many of which have an impact far beyond campus borders.

For years, there’s been a growing consensus that journalism programs need to transform themselves into teaching hospitals for news production. Consider these conclusions and recommendations …


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