I came across a review of viral college media in 2012 while perusing my Twitter feed this morning. While I am sad to say The Daily Campus did not go viral for any of our excellent pieces, I am happy to report we also did not go viral for any lapses in judgment.
The evolution of journalism has pushed college journalists to the big league. No longer is student content limited to the students, faculty and alumni of a college. Now anyone, anywhere can access articles and photographs printed in most newspapers by visiting their website. The Daily Campus puts up every printed article and photo on our site, which is updated nightly as our paper is sent to the printer. It is also updated with breaking news.
Personally, I have this visibility in the back of my mind during our weekly editors meetings as we go through a run down of articles to come. As an editor, it is important to remember that our mistakes are no longer confined to the UConn campus.
The pressure is on.
One main goal of college media is to give students a chance to learn about the business. Originally, the intention was to do this while providing the safety net of it being a college publication, which was limited in circulation.
The safety net has diminished as everything has moved online. As Reimold demonstrated, student journalists are held to similar standards of other media groups because our work can be shared as quickly and as far as any other online.
Editors at Onward State were hit with a heavy backlash last January when they tweeted that Joe Paterno died before he did. The managing editor made a public apology and resigned within the night. The fact that he was a college student did not shield him from public retribution.
While attention for mistakes is upsetting, there are valuable lessons to be learned in these situations.
This is a beneficial development for students. We are no longer just playing the role of journalists. When students know their work could end up on a national stage they make a concerted effort to do their best. While I hope this was always the case, the stakes are certainly higher now.
As are the rewards.
The staff of the University of Georgia’s student newspaper, The Red and Black, resigned in August in protest of increased non-student control of their content. Less than a week later the students were able to come to an agreement with their board of directors that gave editorial control to students, with no prior review. I am sure this decision would not have come so quickly, and might not have come at all, if it wasn’t for the fact that the students started an independent website which rallied national support.
The country watched as the Red and Black staff fought for the rights of student journalists and won.
The increased visibility gives students the opportunity to learn what it is like to manage a media publication, national attention and all. Our sense of responsibility is heightened knowing that any tweet, Facebook post or article could spread.
While some questionable choices of 2012 went viral, other reputable examples of journalism were given deserved attention. I hope we see students publish more of the latter in 2013.