This past weekend, five members of the TKS staff attended the 2019 National College Media Convention in D.C. There, we were able to meet other college journalists from across the country, hear from keynote speakers like Marty Baron and Nina Totenberg and attend sessions from professional journalists and college media advisers from across the country.
Opportunities like this are essential to college journalism and making student papers the best they can be.
The problems TKS faces, from budget issues to social media engagement to increasing readership, are far from unique. They affect professional and student papers across the country.
The sessions gave us opportunities to talk about our challenges with others who faced them. We were able to hear from and talk with editors and advisors who have solved these challenges at their own papers. There are a wide variety of schools and ways papers are run, so there is no clear solution we could just copy, but there are different ideas that we can start applying and adapting to Knox and TKS. You will see one of those suggestions at the top of some pages, where the section names are now next to the page numbers, rather than with the date in the middle.
We also learn how to be better reporters in the sessions. There are sessions on every step of the reporting process, from finding sources to editing your article. There are also sessions on editing and larger picture sessions about newsroom diversity, management and organization. So, we come back not just as better reporters, but also as better editors and leaders for our staff.
Perhaps the dominant take-away of the conference, however, was that organizations like the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) and College Media Association (CMA) are essential to TKS and other student papers.
ACP and CMA host the National College Media Convention every year, this year in Washington D.C.
Besides these conferences, these organizations provide legal help, and when needed, teeth, to papers facing lawsuits or First Amendment challenges. They, along with the Student Press Law Center, also provide free legal advice and information for a wide range of situations. Professionals from the organizations also give out their contact information at sessions they run, giving students a direct contact for help.
There are other resources as well, including critiques, links to other resources and discounts on physical resources and supplies, such as notebooks. In less tangible ways, they provide examples of codes of ethics (you can find ours on our website) and FOIA requests –– vital parts of being a journalist, but not something that is easily learned except by example.
Paying our dues to these organizations means not only do we get to benefit from these services, but other student journalists at other colleges also get to benefit. In short, it would be impossible to be student journalists without these organizations. So even with the budget cuts, we will continue to support them as much as we can.
One great bonus from ACP specifically is that they give out awards. The biggest award they give is Pacemakers, given each year to the group of publications the judges believe are the best in the country.
This year, and in 2017 and 2016, we were honored to be finalists for the Pacemaker. While we did not win the full prize, we were the only print student paper in Illinois and one of only two schools with below 5,000 students to be finalists.
To brag a little bit, that feels really good. And we hope to continue working at that level this year and beyond, which we could not do without ACP, CMA and other student press organizations.