Assessing the value of student journalism

BY MALLORY DUNCAN | ASST. ARTS, ETC. EDITOR

The Butler Collegian has been publishing since 1886. The impact it—and other student newspapers—can have on their respective college and university campuses can be far reaching.

“College papers are essential because not only do they just help the students learn how to do journalism but they help the campus community,” said David Cuillier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists and director of University of Arizona’s School of Journalism.

“Without (newspapers), we’ll fall apart. Without that, people won’t know what’s going on around campus. There’s only so much you can get from people’s Facebook and blogs.”

A college or university’s campus newspaper is one place student journalists can hone their skills in the field.
Gary Edgerton, dean of the College of Communication, also believes in the significance of a student newspaper.

“I think (a student newspaper) is very important, especially with an institution that has a journalism major,” Edgerton said. “I think the college’s point of view and certainly my point of view (is), it’s part of a college education.”

Student journalists aren’t the only group on college campuses that can learn from a student newspaper.

“The student newspaper covers not only the student news but the faculty, staff, events that come to campus as well as holding student and administrative officials alike accountable,” said Craig Fisher, Butler’s Student Government Association president. “As officials, we need something like The Collegian in all honesty.

“It’s without them that we sometimes lose touch with students and how students are feeling, especially when it applies to accountability. It’s kind of a backwards answer from the SGA president to want to be held accountable.”

Beyond the education received from working on a newspaper staff, student journalists learn lifelong lessons while simultaneously strengthening their resumes.

“(My life) would be vastly different. My first internship would not have been the result of what I produced in clips,” said Dan Cooreman, who served as The Collegian’s editor in chief his senior year and is currently an editor for The New York Times Sunday Business section. “If I had to put myself out there with undergraduates from Indiana University showing clips from the Daily Student, I would lose. It would’ve changed everything.”

Student newspaper experience, including that gained from The Collegian, is a way for students to show future employers what they can do through both sample writing and design pieces.
“(Being a student journalist) is the only way one gets in the career really,” said Cullier, SPJ president. “You learn by doing. That’s the case with most of us. You only learn so much in the classroom with journalism. It’s really something you’ve got to practice.”

Russ Pulliam, the Indianapolis Star’s associate editor, said the lessons learned in a student newsroom can be valuable to people in most any line of work.

“(Student journalism) can teach anybody—but especially the future journalists—how to write a story. If you can just write the first two or three paragraphs and get the who, what, where and all that—get it all in the first two or three paragraphs and still write interesting 20-word sentence—that’s a skill that can be used just about any place,” Pulliam said.

Practice makes perfect, and Fisher said he hopes The Collegian will be able to have this outlet for years to come.

“It’s kind of a scary thought (not having the Collegian around),” Fisher said. “This has been around since 1886. (The Collegian) is one of campus’ best traditions. That’s something that I would never want to lose.”

David Therkelsen, interim director of the National Scholastic Press Association, agrees with Fisher about the gravity of the repercussions from this potential loss.

“That’s 40 students (at The Collegian) who would not have the rich opportunity to, at a very young age, develop skills that will serve them lifelong.”

Student journalism, in any capacity, is part of Butler’s traditions. Butler President James Danko said he realizes the importance of an enduring Butler tradition.

“I think the value of what you’re going through is extraordinary, and I’m supportive of it,” Danko said. “I see (The Collegian’s financial concerns) as not an obstacle. This is the first time I’m hearing about it. I think it hasn’t risen to a level where people are aware of it.”

This week, The Collegian has begun informing Butler of its current financial situation—a situation that Fisher said could result in impactful changes to an important part of campus culture.

“(The Collegian) is up there with all the great traditions Butler has,” Fisher said.
“It’s one that students need around campus. When you lose your traditions, you lose your livelihood of what makes campus so special to everyone, past and present.”

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