Are Campus Newspapers Still Relevant?

By David Hargis

Editorial Staff

Short Answer: Yes, but it’s complicated. While most news sources have continued the steady migration to digital venues, including many campus papers, the value newspapers offer the campus community and the learning opportunities they offer students are still relevant. In essence, yes – they are still relevant, maybe more than we realize.

While online delivery offers cost saving and is compatible with trending technology, they are often hit- or-miss as a qualitative information source and frequently just as ignored as the many print newspapers that still exist today. It’s easy to get the national news. What’s not so easy is discovering what’s going on down the block, in your city or county, or on the other side of the San Luis Valley. Local newspapers and radio stations are a largely underappreciated resource that connects the community and everyone in it, and the campus versions of these institutions provide students with valuable experience in real world dynamics that are often missed in online venues.
Local papers and radio are supported by local advertising, specialize in local news stories, and work – often tirelessly – to inform and entertain community members. They’re a vital source of virtually everything we need to know about what’s going on in our community (Events Calendar), who’s hiring or selling something (Classifieds), and local news (Headlines & Features). Newspapers, however, cannot survive on their own. It takes that vital engagement by community members, local businesses and organizations to create a vibrant, relevant, local news source. That being said, the newspapers and radio stations need to step up, too. The resources need to be there, the creative drive and the will to produce a quality product that the community finds engaging, newsworthy, and entertaining is an often
unspoken mandate of the community that supports them.

Campus newspapers have another dimension; they are a proving ground and an educational experience for up and coming writers, journalists, advertisers, editors, and managers. They are the lab that allows students to hone their skills in an experiential venue, giving them opportunities to become more effective communicators and more engaged professionals. The campus newspaper is a high-impact practice that spans the gulf between many disciplines, just by its nature, and nearly all of them due to the potential diversity of topics communicated in the paper by writers and advertisers.

It is important to remember that journalistic writing is not restricted to the purview of newspapers. Marketers frequently use this style of writing, as do companies that produce newsletters, internal videos and training, as well as blog writers and entrepreneurs looking to reach new clients and markets. The skills and experiences students encounter while working on a campus paper are broad and have the potential to cross over to nearly any career.
Likewise, the topics and disciplines newspaper writers are exposed to give them a much broader understanding of the world around them, the complexities of culture and politics, as well as topical knowledge about people and the environments they inhabit and create. Every article, every assignment, has the potential to open up new perspectives and enrich the lives of the writers who create those articles, as well as the students, faculty, and staff who read them.The educational connection between our campus newspaper and its instructional values are best found when analyzing the Adams Learning Outcomes. All four areas of the Adams Learning Outcomes can be reasonably connected to our campus newspaper, when the paper is effectively resourced and engaged with:

Area One – Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World, lives in the articles and interests of the writers and the community they serve. The Adams State University campus and the San Luis Valley, as a whole, possess a diverse and amazing number of living cultures, as well as an extensive history. Added to the geological and ecological features in the valley and the surrounding Rocky Mountains, and you can discover a vast array of topics that can be communicated by student writers, as well as interested faculty and staff.

Area Two – Intellectual and Practical Skills, are a hallmark of journalism and effective management. Critical and creative thinking are axiomatic components of modern journalism. Written and oral communication are key to both organizing the efforts required to produce a newspaper and expressing the information that paper will convey. Problem-solving and teamwork are ongoing practices in all venues of the paper, as they deal with limitations in resources and access, all while working to meet deadlines.

Area Three – Personal and Social Responsibility, including the key elements of Civic Engagement and Foundations and skills for lifelong learning, which are equally inherent in the processes of creating and sustaining a campus newspaper. In order for such organizations to survive, papers needs to stay connected to the communities they serve, and do the work necessary to sustain a level of effective engagement. It is not easy. It takes real effort and an active level of support from the community and the university, which helps to sustain a quality newspaper that both reaches local communities and equitably represents them.

Area Four – Integrative and Applied Learning, is another key aspect of developing and sustaining a campus newspaper. The nature of running a paper and the connections that such efforts develop with the various campus contingencies demand that students enhance their existing abilities to new dimensions. Journalism is about discovery, and to represent the community, students must make those valuable connections across disciplines and departments, cultures and interests, as well as navigating the politics and processes inherent in any large organization that serves such a diverse mix of people and viewpoints.
Newspapers require and develop a mix of skills, both technical and professional. They involve writing, speech, as in-person and electronic communication, aspects of sociology, politics, community knowledge and engagement, as well as a healthy dose of marketing and management. Want to take your skills and knowledge to the next level, work for a newspaper.

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