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Harrington: Student Journalism

(Host) Print journalism has lost much revenue to the internet, and many newspapers have reduced both workforce and pages published. But college English instructor, former newspaper editor and commentator Elaine Harrington reports that student journalism is alive and well in Vermont.

(Harrington) When a newspaper takes a three-month break each year - and starts over with many new staffers - you would expect a few weak issues when it returns to production.

But this year's Vermont Cynic - the University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883 - hit campus on August 30 th with 16 full pages of news, editorials, sports, and the arts. Impressive evidence indeed that student journalism is alive and well. And The Water Tower - UVM's Alternative Newsmag - was also out early, on September 4th with 12 pages of commentary on college life that I wouldn't hesitate to call unique. And the full, interesting issues have kept coming all semester. Two weekly newspapers, staffed by energetic young journalists - what's happening here?

Print journalism today is said to be under siege from on-line news links and apps, and from blogs of every persuasion. Much print advertising has gone to Craig's List.

But student journalism is happening at the University of Vermont - and on other college campuses in our state. The Cynic involves more than 80 students. They write and edit articles, do layouts, sell ads, and deliver copies via bicycle. Print circulation is 5,000 each week, and the website gets 1,000 to 4,000 hits per day.

That website - probably key in the Cynic's continuing success - just received a prestigious Pace Award for its content and design. Competition for this Pulitzer Prize of college journalism is intense: from 270 entries, only five college newspaper websites were honored.

Two recent Cynic stories: Students Call on Trustees to Divest Fossil Fuels and Quakes Shake Vermont: Professor Says Future Tremors Likely.

Lead stories from the Water Tower include: The Workforce Behind the iPhone about exploitation in Chinese factories and Get Off Your (expletive deleted) and Get Educated.

Watching students unlock their power as published writers is exciting, and I feel privileged to teach UVM writing classes that include journalism. Chris Evans advises the Cynic staff - but students make the decisions.

Saint Michael's College is known for its journalism program. On its vibrant website, The Defender reports options for choosing a mountain (Where Will You Ride?) and Unions Having Success in Our Own Backyard.

The Middlebury College students' Campus has been investigating faculty attendance at important meetings.

Castleton State College students produce The Spartan. A recent story describes the Heart Project, in which art majors help fund art education for local kids.

The Norwich Guidon just ran a story relevant to military life: Some Cadets Sweat the Details of Army Weight Requirements.

And,since 1979, Lyndon State College students in Electronic Journalism and TV Studies have served Northeast Kingdom towns - 14 at last count - with their News 7 television station.

All this student journalism is indeed inspiring. Despite concerns about the post-graduation job market, at least some of these students will write the next wave of journalism for the mid- 21 st century. The need for reliable, balanced information about our community and the world will never disappear. Other students are just gaining useful writing skills for whatever opportunities lie ahead.

The late Elaine Keen Harrington of Middlesex was a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Vermont. A former editor for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, she also owned a fiber arts business.
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