Student newspapers have an individual edge. Most are free, they aren’t in quite the same financial situation as the nationals, and most importantly, they are run by students, for students.
But more significantly than that, student newspapers have their own unique patch. The journalists who work on them are the only people that are going to be finding out about events going on in their local community and around their campuses that the bigger publications just don’t have time to catch.
Students have also got the expertise (read: time) to comment on, critique and analyse a range of national and international issues, and raise them amongst the student population, from a completely different perspective to most industry professionals.
A constant source of tension, at least at The Boar, is how to address the balance between student-based articles, and national/international pieces.
The thing is, the primary reason students pick up a student paper is not for news about David Cameron’s latest policy (unless it concerns them directly that is!) or a review of the latest Bond film. Though these articles enrich the variety of the publication and are definitely interesting to engage in, students can get the same content in the nationals, or online.
What they want to know is what they won’t get anywhere else. The latest union and university news, what’s been going on with their favourite sports teams, and vox pops with their friends’ faces. That’s the selling point.
So where to draw the line, and balance student publications between the two?
George wrote last week about how pleased he was to see the coverage of the US election across the student media, which should be commended.
A number of student publications produced a range of opinion articles on the candidates in the run up to the event, debating the two candidates and the past four years of Obama. They produced detailed info-graphics and blogs, analysed economic, foreign and domestic policies, and spoke about the impact that a new president through Romney, or four more years of Obama might have.
Of the night itself, student media covered local events via radio and video broadcasts, liveblogged and reported on the action until the small hours of Obama’s victory.
Despite the hard work and utter dedication that was put into the intense coverage of this truly significant international event, they had a lot to compete with.
Every national and international newspaper, TV channel and radio station was covering this event, and it’s easy to overlook student media when deciding where to tune in. When full time journalists are spending all their time (and company budgets) dedicating their lives to giving the best coverage they can, it’s hard for us students to keep up. Luckily, students’ US election coverage from last week gave something a little bit different. The efforts and dedication (considering we’re not getting paid for it!) rivalled the national media, and proved that student media can escape complacency.
This, teamed up with investigative reporting, in depth university features and quirky anecdotes about life on campus should strike the balance between the student patch and the national interest for a student paper. There’s nothing wrong with reviewing something you’ll find in a national publication. But the key focus for student papers should always be the reason that we’re putting it out in the first place: the students.
What do you think? How should student newspapers find the balance between campus news and national or international stories? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @wannabehacks