Although they may seem to be antiquated bits of the past, college newspapers are still very much alive in the country’s universities. According to one source, there are more than 1,600 college newspapers across the United States. These publications vary in theme, budget and preferred coverage.
If you are attending a college and thinking about joining a university organization, you may be drawn to the fast-paced life of journalism.
However, unless you have the proper background and skills, you could find it difficult to nurture sources, write hard-hitting stories or impress your editor.
Below are 7 tips on how you can become an excellent college journalist.
Consent is Key
Contrary to popular belief, journalists who publish quotes, take pictures and record conversations without asking for consent from the involved parties don’t get praised. They can get sued, but they certainly don’t get praised.
Consent is essential in journalism, especially if you are writing a story about something personal. Always ask your potential sources if you can quote them in your article, make it clear when you want to record a conversation on your phone or if you want to take a picture.
If you fail to secure anyone’s consent at any time, your editor or the newspaper will most likely not run your story to protect them from liability.
Stories that Matter
Just because you are working for a college newspaper doesn’t mean that you only have to cover school activities or lifestyle stories. There are still hard-hitting stories in a college setting. Seeking them out can be a little difficult if you are new, but here are some tips on finding stories that matter.
First, find relevant topics that are timely. These can be current events, latest developments and the like. Second, you could ask friends or students about topics they are curious or burning to know more about. Pursuing these stories can take a while and you need to be determined to get to the bottom of events if you want to put out great stories.
Remember that the internet exists. If your fellow students simply want to learn the basic information about an event, such as when something happened and who was involved, they can probably ask someone on social media or do a Google search.
For your stories to matter, you need to delve deeply into them and uncover a lot of details. This will involve investigation, interviews, and research. Your potential readers will want information they can’t easily access. Journalists are primary sources; you will need to dedicate hours to unearth every aspect of your story. Your story has to have a point, and you will eventually need to conclude any piece.
Universities and colleges are always brimming with different activities. There could be charity drives, quizzes, sporting events and other recreational activities. You may think covering activities is inane and you should be pursuing hard hitting stories but in reality you will be writing a lot of these types of articles, especially since you are still in a university publication.
You can still make these articles very interesting by interviewing organizers, collating public opinion about it or looking in-depth into the effects of the event.
For example, you can look into the cause a charity drive is hoping to help, determine why an organizer is performing a certain event or if an event has had negative impacts. You can even follow up on events if the story is developed further.
Finally, you will need to learn how to find, nurture and use sources. Sources can be anyone or anything you use to get reliable information for your stories. First, there are sources such as books, websites and similar databases. Using these sources properly will require practice and research.
For example, accessing the different databases and tools in your college library can yield plenty of information you can’t find online.
Human sources are more difficult to nurture and use. They can be people in privileged positions, authority figures or placed in positions where they access a lot of information. Once again: consent is important when getting information. If you want to have a nice relationship with your sources, you will need to treat them fairly and properly.
Campus journalism may not be as exciting as you think but it can still be very challenging and rewarding. With some practice, research and a lot of determination, you can establish a career in journalism.