Collegian has done good work this year, hoping to do better



Back in late summer, when I introduced myself as the first public editor of The Butler Collegian, I said my intention was to be “the explainer”—the person who would help readers understand why the newspaper operates the way it does and how decisions are made.

If there was a controversy, it would be my role to examine the issue: why the subject of the story felt aggrieved, why the reporters and editors handled the story the way they did and what, if anything, might be done differently next time.

Happily, the controversies this school year have been minimal. And this semester, they’ve been nonexistent. For the most part, then, my role has been to share some insight with the students who put out the paper and talk to them about their approach.

It’s been a great experience to find how seriously they take their mission, how deeply they think about issues and how concerned they are about balancing their love for Butler University with their desire to, when necessary, point out its shortcomings.

They’ve done solid reporting on subjects such as housing, internships, campus sexual assaults, university finances and what the so-called “Religious Freedom” law would mean to Butler. They did a good number of student profiles and covered far more campus arts offerings than I’ve seen in almost 11 years at Butler. It’s no wonder the paper has won fistfuls of awards (13, most recently, from the Indiana Collegiate Press Association).

In addition to doing good journalism, they’re also working hard to get the campus to pay attention to the paper. They’ve experimented—as they should—with making creative use of social media to promote their stories and using all the tools available to them.

Did you see their video “Parkin’ Spot”? (Search for it on YouTube.) It’s a funny, smart commentary about the university’s current parking situation, and it probably makes its point better than a straightforward column would. Similarly, if you didn’t read Emily Zalewski’s column “The Truth About College” in last week’s edition, go back and take a look. Her list of 40 points takes the reader through the rollercoaster of emotions that is college life.

Some students who work on the Collegian may never become journalists. And that’s OK. But potentially they’ll walk away with dozens of skills that will help them in their careers—meeting deadlines, gathering information, doing interviews, telling stories, working collaboratively and so much more.

In the meantime, they’re helping to advance journalism by finding the balance between serious and entertaining. That’s what newspapers are going to need to do to survive.

Every week, I look forward to seeing what they’ll do next, and I’m glad to have been asked to continue as public editor next year.