Covering Off-Campus Communities


Trish Barton,  a senior double majoring in journalism and international studies and minoring in French, travels 9.8 miles northeast of campus to Triton Brewing Company. She is not going to order a drink or meet up with friends. She is interviewing the brewmaster for her journalism class.

Starting as early as sophomore year, journalism students burst the “Butler Bubble” when they are required to go off-campus to cover news for their reporting courses.

All three of these courses are worth three credit hours, and all require a daunting amount of work outside the classroom. Time from planning and going to off-campus interviews can add up in a week. The courses are taught by Loni McKown, professional practice faculty in the College of Communications.

JR 212 is Multimedia Journalism I, where each student is assigned a local area  they cover the news for during that semester. Some of the local areas that have been covered before include Carmel, Rocky Ripple, Broad Ripple and Rocky Kessler.

JR 312 is Multimedia Journalism II, and it builds on what students do in 212. Here, students are expected to cover an Indianapolis news beat, commonly downtown or statewide beats.

JR 412 is In-Depth Journalism is the final course in this trilogy where students are expected to write a single, extensive and in-depth story, or a mini-documentary, throughout the entire semester.

Trish Barton is currently in JR 412. She, like many other journalism students, wishes the classes were worth more credit hours.

“I wish it was more, because that would be very helpful,” Barton said. “I wish it would go to 5 or 6 credit hours, so we feel like we are getting back what we are putting in.”

Morgan Legel, a senior double majoring in digital media production and journalism, has also taken both JR 212 and 312.

“I find these classes very stressful, because I was taking 18 credit hours when I was in them,” Legel said. “If they were worth more credit hours, I wouldn’t have to take as many other classes that semester to feel like I have a full course load.”

Breanna Manley, a senior digital productions media major, took JR 212, and made the decision to change her major from journalism afterwards.

“This class made me question everything about my life and where I wanted to go,” Manley said, “That whole semester, I was anxious to go to class. However, it did help me work on my AP style ability, as well as making my writing more concise.”

Setting up interviews with professionals in the real world is also a challenge for these college students.

“I have classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but that is when people working at their jobs can meet,” Legel said. “Not very many people are willing to meet after the usual work hours.”

Maddie Koss, a junior sports media major currently taking JR 412, agrees with Legel’s comment on the difficulty of interviewing.

“I only have one day that is free all week,” she said. “And all the rest of the week days, I have class until 6:30 p.m.– not many people are willing to meet with me after they have worked all day. However, I think that holds very true in the real-world. You will have to work around people’s schedules on a daily basis.”

Time is, needless to say, a challenge when taking these courses. Whether it be having enough of it or working around the schedules of others. On top of all this, students enrolled in these courses tackle other classes, internships, part-time jobs and greek life commitments. Manley is in the Delta Gamma sorority at Butler University.

“I was taking eighteen credit at the time, plus an internship, and I found it difficult balance my sorority obligations and my part-time job,” she said.  

Students without cars have also had to adapt to these courses. Barton said she didn’t have a car when taking JR212 and didn’t have one for the beginning of JR 312.

“I actually had to borrow my roommate’s car, because a lot of times I would go at night and had some safety concerns. Sometimes the neighborhood I was visiting would have a policeman drive me home if I had walked,” she said.

Students have also had to adapt to the traveling cost that comes with these classes. Legel has a larger vehicle, and said she spent approximately 100 dollars extra on gas and parking expenses. Other students didn’t have as high of travel expenses, thanks to fuel-efficient cars and Uber.

The College of Communication and the School of Journalism is fully aware of the difficulties that students face. Nancy Whitmore, chair of the Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism and professor in the journalism school, said the classes require a student to be organized because they have a huge time commitment. She also cautioned against taking on internships during these classes.

Whitmore also said the school is searching for ways to make the courses count for a greater amount of credits.

“It isn’t an easy conversion from 3 credit hours to 4 credit hours, but the conversation and desire is there. It is a matter of working with the curriculum committee and the college requirements to make sure that our classes would fit the criteria,” Whitmore said.

Overall, many journalism students were grateful for the courses, despite their workloads.

“Looking back at it, I wouldn’t change having to go out and do these assignments. I am a better journalist and a better student in general thanks to these courses” Legel said.

Barton also said she learned valuable lessons from her reporting classes. w

“I gained a lot of poise from these classes,” Barton said. “I went from being nervous to interview everyday people, to going into an interview with a government official with ease. I am so grateful for the experience and confidence these classes have given me.”