On Oct. 7, 2019, a new student-produced newspaper landed in newsstands at Sterling College in Sterling, Kan.
It is called the Sterling College Observer, and it fills a gap within the media program. You can view a digital version here.
As an associate professor of media at Sterling College, I pushed to make this happen because it is vital that student journalists have experiencing working with a publication. Prior to the Observer, my students have been operating a news website (Warrior Student Media), which is great. However, it only gave the students part of the experience they needed.
As I wrote about in June, studies show students lack basics when it comes to journalism skills. Students need a more hands-on, applied learning experience that produces something tangible. Something that their peers and target audience members can see and hold.
A website works toward that goal, but it doesn’t have the same impact on a college campus. For example, if a copy of a physical newspaper is sitting in the student union, a reader can easily pick it up and read it. With a website, though digital is the trend in the industry, there are the barriers of Internet connectivity, opening a browser and navigating to the website.
Of course, a strong web presence needs to support the print product and be able to provide readers with extra and unique coverage, such as stories that didn’t make the print edition or multimedia components.
Here is one paragraph from my previous post that gets to the heart of why a print product is so important:
Bockino (2017) shows how college newspaper fit into the defined objectives of teaching journalism and mass communication students. The study looked at 231 college news outlets. It reported almost “all the papers were distributed via both print (97%) and online (94.8%)” and nearly “half (44.2%) were printed weekly” (Bockino, 2017, p. 74). Some were funding by the institution, some generated their own revenue through advertising sales, and some operated with a combination of the two. Regardless of where the money came from, though, Bockino (2017) reported the newspapers had high levels of autonomy. This supports the idea that a newspaper is “an important pedagogical tool for the development of a fledgling journalist” (Bockino, 2017, p. 77). Other research also supports this as other studies “suggest the pedagogical aspects of the college newspaper should remain more ‘normative’ in nature, helping the budding journalist earn the processes by which to disseminate information, facilitate social and political processes, and serve as a voice independent of vested interests and established institutions [. . .] more important is the correct use of sources, a proper sheen of objectivity, and a general enthusiasm to pursue topics for the public good” (Bockino, 2017, p. 80).Bockino, D. (2017). Preparatory Journalism: The College Newspaper as a Pedagogical Tool. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 73(1), 67-82. doi:10.1177/1077695816687608
Now, the Observer is only coming out monthly, and it is only four pages with only two pages of color. It is part of my journalism lab course. We have an extremely limited budget and only a handful of students taking on the duties of bringing each edition to life.
Basically, it isn’t the ideal setup and operation just yet, but it is a start. And that’s what’s important. We needed a starting point to grow from.
Overall, I’m beyond excited to bring a print newspaper back to Sterling College. There used to be a newspaper several years ago, but it was discontinued due to a myriad of reasons. And it operated under a different name. I made the decision to develop a new name to make it clear this was a different product that didn’t carry any negative connotations the old product might have had. It’s a brand-new product designed to serve the students as an educational tool and campus-news source.
Copies are available in all buildings on campus, and if there aren’t copies in a given area yet, the students and I plan to fix that as soon as possible.
The communication and media department and I are proud to be able to offer this opportunity for our students. It allow communication and media students to practice the very skills we are teaching them, and that is invaluable as we look to grow our program, making it yet another reason to come to Sterling College.V01-I01_SCObserver-Oct19