Student Journalism and What We’re Worried About

Bloggers are dangerous:

The overwhelming number of the blogosphere’s “citizen journalists”
would benefit a great deal by adhering to traditional journalism’s best
practices, starting with posting under real names and then setting out
to verify, verify, verify. Gossip is not fact; at best, it’s a starting
point for running down facts and unraveling rumors. Too many blog posts
begin with, “I heard that…” and then launch into rants and
speculation. No phone calls, no e-mails, no interviews to find out if
what they “heard” is true. It’s the Internet version of the busybody
neighbor, except far less benign.

Meanwhile, in the world, this happened:

At least half a dozen police officers and the Rockingham County
commonwealth’s attorney raided the offices of James Madison
University’s student newspaper Friday, confiscating hundreds of photos
of an off-campus riot last weekend, the paper’s editor said.

Katie Thisdell, editor-in-chief of The Breeze and a 2007 graduate of
Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, said Commonwealth’s Attorney
Marsha Garst came Friday morning armed with a search warrant after
Thisdell refused Thursday to hand over newspaper photos of the April 10

At least 30 people were arrested and more than 40 injured when the
off-campus spring gathering of more than 8,000 people turned into a
melee, prompting police to don riot gear and launch tear gas at the
crowd. About 200 officers tried to quash the rioting, which lasted for
several hours. Police officers were injured, property was damaged and
JMU’s president issued a statement saying the incident was “an

“People were throwing bottles at the police,” Thisdell said. “It was pretty crazy.”

The Breeze reported throughout the week on the incident, and
Thisdell said she believes her photographers were the only news outlet
to have captured the drama.

The kids, to their credit, arefighting this hard:

HARRISONBURG — In an agreement reached between the attorney for the commonwealth andThe Breeze’s attorney, the images seized during Friday’s raid onThe Breeze office have been temporarily sealed until a further agreement can be reached.

According to Katie Thisdell, editor-in-chief forThe Breeze,
the attorney’s agreed Sunday to have a third-party source hold the
seized disks, while the commonwealth’s attorney continues to press for
the release of at least some of them.

Whatever comments in support of the students you can leave at their site would, I’m sure, be appreciated. There are still a few nitwits out there that don’t understand that if the police can compel the press to provide information then press freedom is stifled and nobody talks to the papers the way nobody talks to the cops. It astonishes me, but theONTD thread is full of people that don’t get this.

I spent the weekend in meetings with journalism academics, which is why posting was light yesterday. I needed some time to shovel my brain back into my head. One of the things I kept pressing in these daylong bullshit sessions is that almost nobody outside the student press is paying any attention to the student press. There’s very little scholarship.

At a time when people like Connie Schultz up there is happily wanking away about everything that’s wrong with the blogosphere and people sincerely trying to do a job (and can somebody please get her a subscription to TPM or something? I’m begging here), the people who are really on the frontlines of where media are going are 20-year-olds getting no love at all.

Part of the reason there’s no scholarship and very little discussion is that student journalism, by and large, is considered unserious practice by children who are, more often than not, under the supervision of supposed adults. Professional media critics tune into the student press when somebody uses the word “fuck” in a headline or does something so gutsy it can be debated in an ethical forum by fuckwads who haven’t been in newsrooms in decades. They don’t look at the ways in which student papers do or don’t face the issues faced by the larger industry, they certainly don’t look at how to build a stronger student press as a base for their own futures.

They’re too busy, after all, finding out all the ways the Internet is killing journalism.


4 thoughts on “Student Journalism and What We’re Worried About

  1. I’ve seen Connie Schultz on television and she has usually seemed more perceptive than that. It’s disappointing when smart people say stupid things.

  2. Virgo, she’s got a history here on First Draft. She also opined, from her well-paid columnist’s perch, that newspaper reporters were paid too much and that’s why journalism was suffering.

  3. So reporters, like artists must suffer for their art and live in poverty? 😉
    For some reason my comment didn’t go through, so let me repost.
    The argument against bloggers would be a whole lot stronger if the mainstream media were to investigate and fact check. But in the current environment, the argument that bloggers don’t fact check is almost a straw man.
    But on the student paper: the student paper was at a public disturbance taking pictures. The police want to use that to incriminate the people there. Wasn’t that decided by the courts in the demonstrations in the 1960s??

  4. I hadn’t made the connection before. I’ve seen her on Countdown and Maddow but she was speaking about politics and healthcare not journalism.
    yeah, there’s way too many RICH reporters out there, huh? where do you people get off anyway, with all your piles of money?

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