Gone Fishin’: A break for some pinball at semester’s end

ZoePinball

With the semester coming to a close, it’s time to take a short break from the blog before the summer session starts. The blog will go on hiatus until early June, when the summer session starts up for us. If anything “breaking” happens that needs some attention, I’ll post it as needed, so you aren’t entirely rid of me yet…

In the mean time, Zoe has challenged me to pinball supremacy and has set a record for our old machine (I think she cheated, but…). Thus, I’ll be dedicating a lot of time to trying to reclaim my dignity by smacking a little metal ball around.

Thanks for a great semester! If you need anything, just hit me up on the contact page.

Vince (a.k.a. The Doctor of Paper)

“I bleed for my media.” Why student media advisers do this insane job, right up until they get pushed out

It’s been one year since I stopped advising student media at UW-Oshkosh, a fact that was brought home by a couple events this week. The first was a call from the current editor of the Advance-Titan, who wanted to ask me a question about graduation. Every year, students who graduated after spending whatever appreciable amount of time at the paper deemed worthy of such an honor were able to purchase a stole to wear with their grad gear.

ATStoles“The A-T graduation stoles,” he asked. “Where did you buy those?”

“I made them,” I said.

“You MADE them?”

“Yeah.”

I then outlined the process in which I bought a pack of generic gold stoles online, went down to JoAnn’s fabric store, got some black material and fusible interfacing, ironed them together, traced out each letter, cut them out, placed them on the stole and ironed them on. I also noted I never forgot the hyphen on the back of the neck. (The paper was particularly proud of the hyphen in the name.) Each one took about two hours or so to make and I never even thought to charge more than what the materials cost.

I could almost hear him shaking his head on the other end of the phone. The next day, the current adviser stopped by and the first words out of her mouth were, “Did you do EVERYTHING there?” I don’t know, but there were days I felt like it.

ATBATMost of the time, however, I never thought twice about the time it took to do the stoles or hand-burn the managing editor baseball bats or traipse in a chili supper or fill out award sheets or a dozen other things. Sure, I got paid for being the adviser, a $5,000 annual stipend that the provost provided, but if you broke that down by the hour, I’d have been better off taking a part-time job at Hardee’s. The job was hard, the budgets were tight and 17-hour days on production nights weren’t rare.

Still, I loved the kids. You never think about stuff like time or work when it’s for something you love. However, when the board of oversight put me in an untenable position, I had to walk away.

Kenna Griffin found herself in a similar position this week. All she ever wanted to do was advise student media at Oklahoma City University, something she did splendidly for 16 years. However, her administration painted her into a corner, so she packed up her office and left.

I didn’t really start to cry until I thought about Dru. I was pulling books off of the shelf, separating what was personally mine and what belonged to the position, when I said Dru’s name and started sobbing. It’s not only the girl herself. It’s all of the students she represents. Students who I love. Students whose rights I think it’s my calling to protect. Students who love student media as much as I do. Students I was leaving behind.

Griffin is one of many advisers I know that colleges and universities are actively or passively crushing with increasing workloads, diminishing funds and punitive measures. The latest of these situations came to a head at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where Tom Martin advises The Rambler. The university unilaterally decided to “support new initiatives” and essentially reorganize Martin out of a job. Administrators cut off pay to the students (and Martin), all while painting this as a chance to get an “experienced staff adviser” instead of someone from the outside. Nobody involved in media believed that BS:

The Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued a blistering statement in reaction to the proposed changes.

“Transylvania University’s decision to stop compensating the student staff and part-time professional adviser of its online student newspaper, The Rambler, looks like a blatant attempt to silence and control student voices,” said Tom Eblen, chapter president. “President Seamus Carey and his leadership team should be standing up for the liberal arts values of a free press, good journalism and media literacy, not undermining them, especially at this critical time in our nation’s history. If this decision is not reversed, it will send a powerful message about Transylvania to students, potential students and the nation.”

I asked Martin if he’d like to talk about this for the blog, but he declined, saying The Rambler folks and the administration were trying to work something out and he didn’t want to get in the way. Even as his job hung in the balance, he put the kids first.

So did Scott Morris, the soon-to-be-former adviser of the Flor-Ala at the University of North Alabama, who was also being reorganized out of a job. After this award-winning journalist taught his students to do actual journalism that would (gasp) criticize the institution, the administration decided enough was enough.

ALABAMA — The University of North Alabama is ousting the student media adviser after the student paper published a story critiquing the school’s administration. The move has sparked sharp condemnation from journalism and First Amendment groups and the campus publications board.

In September 2018, The Flor-Ala reported the administration improperly withheld public documents about the resignation of the vice president of student affairs. A week later, the journalists, members of the communications department and The Flor-Ala media adviser Scott Morris met with University Provost Ross Alexander.

It’s not always easy to fire someone without looking like that’s what you’re doing, so it’s much easier to rewrite the position in a way the current person isn’t qualified to fill, call it an “upgrade” and pretend that this is all in the best interest of the students at the publication. Of course, when you get called on your bullshit, it’s easier to pretend like you are the aggrieved party:

[E]fforts to link Dean Burkhalter’s notice of this personnel transition to one article in the paper, represent an ex post facto creation of a narrative designed to lead to a predetermined and misleading conclusion. More generally,there’s been an effort to conflate an academic decision and to relate it in routine personnel notification with an attack on the First Amendment at UNA. I find it objectionable that any group purports that own the First Amendment and interpret it for the rest of us.

Morris told me back in December he has no hope of keeping his job, but he was going to keep working with the students until the administration essentially pried him out of his chair and sent him packing.

Universities have tried to get rid of advisers like Morris, but none has failed as spectacularly as Florida Atlantic University, where Michael Koretzky continues to advise the students nearly a decade after the university fired him. In 2010, the administration there “reorganized” student media to get rid of Koretzky, who had been a thorn in the side of the school forever. The reason? His students loved him and they did real Fourth-Estate journalism, such as holding the student government to account for shady behavior.

Koretzky, as unrelenting as a toothache and as difficult to remove as gum from the bottom of a Nike, worked with the students on his own time, became a “permanent guest speaker” for the University Press staff and eventually settled into a volunteer adviser role. Seven years after the university fired him, the administrators there tried to fire him AGAIN, this time from his volunteer role.

As far as I know, he’s still there, teaching kids what they need to know and innovating like hell. He has developed things like the “First Amendment Free Food Festival,” where students learn about their rights by trading them in to eat for free, and the “Interview with a Zombie” promotion where students risk getting doused with fake blood for asking stupid questions. The participants get a T-shirt emblazoned with the motto I think every adviser would take as his or her own:

“I bleed for my media.”

Dozens of other advisers have met fates like the ones I described above. Ron Johnson at Indiana University was removed after “financial issues.” I know Johnson had even offered to rework his own pay to try to help. Instead, the university cut ties with him earlier than promised to save money. Morgan State fired Denise Brown in 2009, in a move that was seen as an attack on the students’ First Amendment rights. In fact, you can check out the College Media Association’s “censure” page to see what happened there and at other schools where advisers seem to be as safe as the guy in the red shirt on a Star Trek episode.

Anyone looking at the life of a college media adviser from the outside would have to think, “These people are insane!” And, well, yeah… We kind of are. If you want to see the weirdest collective of coexisting people outside of the Cantina scene in “Star Wars,” just go to an adviser reception at a CMA or Associated Collegiate Press convention. To call us an eclectic bunch would be to refer to Godzilla as a lizard; in other words, that’s a dramatic understatement.

However, we all share one crucial trait and that is our love for student media and “our kids” who produce it. Student media isn’t a job for most of us. It IS us. The people in charge of universities don’t understand that spending as much time in a foxhole as we do with these students forges a bond that wounds when it is torn. It’s woven so intrinsically into every fiber of our being that when chuckleheads in student government mess with it, administrators overreach to silence it or others demonize it, we experience personal and unrelenting pain.

That’s why we stand in front of “our kids” when the train is coming down the tracks, knowing that we probably can’t stop the train, but that we might be able to absorb the blow for them. It’s why we take the beatings we do, in hopes that it will allow the students the opportunity to wriggle away unscathed, to continue doing the important work they have come to the newsroom to do. It’s why we have no shame in any of it.

It’s why we cry when it’s gone, even if it is “our choice” to leave.

This is also why we are the ones who get the invitations to weddings, some for relationships forged right under our noses at the newsroom. (Apparently, hours spent in a windowless bunker poring over AP style books and shit-talking the administration can be romantic to some people.) It’s why we attend funerals for staffers’ parents and siblings, driving whatever distance just to be there as our staffers stand before us in a broken state. We tell them, “It’s going to be OK.”

We know about the internship offers and the pregnancy scares before family members do. We serve as the sounding board for everything from students who are worried about “coming out” to those who think they need an extra year of college. Sometimes, we end up worrying about a staffer who lands in the hospital after a school shooting.

We aren’t the only ones who do this, to be sure, as other faculty and advisers serve similar roles, but I have yet to have students call me up and say, “Hey, I was in your Fall 2015 reporting class! We’re getting a reunion together at The Bar tonight and we hoped you could come!”

I also don’t remember hearing about the student government passing a resolution for the firing of the Model UN adviser. I don’t recall seeing the adviser of the forensics team getting “reorganized” out of his or her job because the kids in “solo serious” were picking material deemed “too serious.” I have yet to see the chess team adviser getting publicly castigated for his team’s financial situation or for preaching the value of the Evans Gambit, because administrators felt a Benko Opening was really more responsible.

When Kenna posted about her situation, other advisers and former advisers came out of the woodwork to offer support. Many of them offered similar tales of heartbreak:

Walking away from advising after 22 years was one of the most difficult and at the same time, most sane decisions I ever made. You are in my thoughts.

I left before it got that bad, but it was headed that way. Advising student media had put a target on my back. There was even a standing committee that met with the university president weekly to ask him to fire me. Shouldn’t be that way. Sad to see it’s no better 12 years after I walked away.

I’ve been in similar shoes. And the terror of it will be something that, down the road, you will be glad you went through. We live by an ethical code and have a breaking point when the rubber meets the road. Those clowns will realize their mistake, but might not care. For that I’m sorry. It stings. It’s a gut punch. It’s a betrayal and can make you question being such a loyal person to an institution. It certainly was a real lesson in higher ed for me. I wish you all the best and admire your guts.

In the year since I left, there are times I don’t regret my choice, like when I could go to my kid’s volleyball game or actually get more than four-hours sleep before teaching my 8 a.m. class. Last night, I did laundry and watched a basketball game on TV, with only a passing thought that it was Wednesday and Wednesday used to always mean I was at the A-T.

I do have to admit that it stings when I have to refer to myself as a “former” adviser or when I have to direct students to the current adviser, a wonderful woman who is doing a fantastic job. I miss the moments in the newsroom that can’t be reproduced anywhere else, including the inside jokes and the “remember when” stories from “back in the day,” which for most students was about a semester and a half ago. I miss eating random pseudo-meals at my desk while students would yell out stuff like, “Is ‘felony conviction’ hyphenated?”

The one comfort I have in all this, and perhaps the only one I can offer to Kenna, is that I know I’m not alone and neither is she. We advisers are a weird bunch, but we all eat the same dirt, so we know what it tastes like and how to spit it out.

Hang in there, pal. It’ll get better.

 

Translating “The Dance” between professors and students over final grades

As the term winds to a close, students and professors engage in what I refer to as “The Dance” over grades. It’s a tactical, nuanced discussion that involves trying to beg without it looking like begging, trying to answer an email without promising anything and basically engaging in nuclear-treaty-level diplomacy. If we were all trapped in a “Liar, Liar” world, it would essentially look like this:

Student: Pass me and stop being a jerk, you asshat.

Professor: Oh, now you care about this class, you little twerp? Go to hell and take a left.

However, since we have to “Eddie Haskell” it on both ends, here are the legendary begging statements I’ve gotten from students over the years or variations on those themes provided by the hivemind. I’ve added a few “internal thoughts” your professors have had over the years when it comes to responding to these pleas. Enjoy:

“Could you just add XX small points to my final grade?”

First, all points are created equal. Second, that figure has ranged from 1 to about 100, depending on the level of desperation. Third, when you kept doing the same stupid thing over and over again because instead of reading my comments, you just looked at the grade and thought, “Screw you, dude” you might not need those “small points.”

 

“I’m graduating this term…”

Not if you need to pass this class, you’re not.

 

“Is there anything I can do?”

Can you invent a time machine, go back in history and tell the earlier version of yourself to turn stuff in on time, not skip every third class and generally give a better overall performance than a disinterested Jay Cutler on a trick play? If not, no.

OR

Prayer can help, although I’m not certain how strong God’s will is to help you out here.

OR

Sign up for the next semester I teach this class and give a crap a little sooner in the term.

 

“Is there extra credit?”

Sure, because when the syllabus said, “There will be NO EXTRA CREDIT in this class, so plan accordingly,” I clearly included a loophole for people who didn’t care about anything until the very moment they realized they were screwed.

 

“Could I rewrite (half of the assignments) for additional credit?”

Sure, because nothing says, “I’m ready to do a good job,” like not doing a good job on anything all term and then expecting to make all of that up in 72 hours before grades are due with no real interest in learning anything other than how many points you need to slide by.

 

“Could you bump me up just this little bit?”

Sure, because I’m sure that won’t tick off the six other people in your class who sweated bullets to get a passing grade through hard work on that assignment you blew off to go to Cabo and party on the beach.

 

“Could you possibly round me up?”

I could. Now ask me if I will. Welcome to the grammar lesson you skipped.

 

“I had some issues this semester…”

Yeah. No kidding.

 

“Your class is very important to me…”

Um… I believe a lot of things people tell me to make me feel better about myself. This isn’t one of them.

 

“I don’t understand why you downgraded me…”

You mean the page and a half of comments I included in the body of your paper didn’t clue you in that this random series of unattributed content, fragmented sentence, shifted verb tenses, incorrect word choices and cripplingly bad structure didn’t help? This wasn’t a news story. It was a disaster movie filmed out of sequence.

 

“This isn’t fair that I should have to take your course over again.”

It isn’t fair I had to grade this pile of sheep dung you referred to as “completed assignments,” but we all have our crosses to bear, I suppose…

 

“I need (A/B/C grade) to (pass/maintain my scholarship/keep my ego afloat)…”

This is not Burger King. You don’t get it your way.

The New York Times 144-word correction on a prominent politician’s obituary and what you can learn from the situation

When Indiana’s legendary Richard Lugar died last week, the New York Times managed to crank out this 48-word monstrosity of a lead:

Richard G. Lugar, who represented Indiana in the Senate for 36 years and whose mastery of foreign affairs made him one of only a handful of senators in modern history to exercise substantial influence on the nation’s international relations, died on Sunday in Annandale, Va. He was 87.

And yet, that paled in comparison to the 144-word mea culpa the paper had to write once the folks there realized they massively botched the piece:

LugarFail

I imagined this to be the conversation at the New York Times last week around the obituary desk:

Obit Writer 1: Man, we’ll never screw up another obituary any worse than we did when John McCain died…

Obit Writer 2: Hold my beer.

If you look at the mistakes in there, you can see that a lot of this came down to fact checking. People can argue about nuance, such as if someone “resigned” or merely “left a job,” but the date something happened is one of those things we can all figure out if we try really, really hard.

With that in mind, let’s look back at a few of the points we made when the times ran its mega-fail obit of John McCain and see how they still apply here:

Assume everything is wrong. Fact check accordingly: This one still works wonders here, especially up at the top of this thing. The date he entered the service, his rank and the date of his marriage are all fact-based items that could easily have been checked against a dozen sources or digital documents. As noted in the McCain piece, when a person takes on a particularly important level of distinction in the world, newspapers like the NYT will usually start an obituary file for that person, so this thing has been on hand for a while.

That said, who knows who actually wrote that first draft of it or to when it was last reviewed? You shouldn’t grab something out of an old file and figure, “Well someone wrote it so it must be right” any more than you would grab an unmarked pill bottle out of a stranger’s medicine cabinet and figure, “Well, I’m sure a couple of these will probably help my headache.” As much as we venerate the “golden era” of the press, which consisted of a lot of typewriters clicking, lead-type machines and the concept of smoking indoors, those folks were people, just like us. They could have screwed up, just as easily as we can.

How you state something matters: When I taught sports writing, I provided students with statements to prove true or false and two of my favorites were:

  • “In the Open Era, which runs from 1968 to present, the person holding the most Wimbledon singles titles is Roger Federer with eight wins.”
  • “The team with the most NFL championships is the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of six Super Bowls.”

The first one is something half of the students get wrong because they look up Federer, see he won eight singles titles, see no one above him on the list of winners for men and say it’s true. However, the word “person” isn’t synonymous with “men.” The athlete (or person) with the most is Martina Navratilova, who won nine singles titles. The second one is wrong because the Green Bay Packers won 13 NFL titles (most of them in the pre-Super Bowl era), so even thought Steelers have more Super Bowls, the Packers have more titles.

The line in the obituary for Lugar that got some criticism falls along these lines. Lugar pushing for something didn’t mean it encountered heavy resistance. That’s probably at least part of the problem associated with the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program correction, although I’m not entirely sure how they missed by more than a decade.

Beware of “-est” statements: The obit’s correction didn’t have any of these errors, which was the case with McCain’s, but that might have just been a fortunate bounce, given the use of “-est” statements:

His greatest legacy, though, remains his work toward reducing the threat of nuclear arms.

Security was upgraded at nuclear weapons sites, at a time when the greatest fear was that a terror group would take advantage of the chaos in Russia or in one of the former Soviet states and buy or steal a weapon.

Friends said that this was Mr. Lugar’s most significant exposure to geopolitical thinking, and probably the single greatest source of his fascination with foreign policy.

In these statements, the writer’s good luck had him attempting to quantify things that could not be accurately quantified, such as a “greatest” fear” or “greatest source.” People can quibble with those. In the case of the McCain obit, calling the fire on the Forrestal the “deadliest” incident could be measured (and proven wrong, as it was).

As a word of warning, you need to make sure that you have something nailed down perfectly before you issue an “-est” statement. The “deadliest” attack. The “longest” game. The “greatest” comeback. Those things need to be quantified and verified. Any time you see an “-est” in a story you are editing or you include one in a story you are writing, make absolutely sure you are correct.

Ask for help: One of the many benefits of newsrooms is the presence of other people who know stuff. You might worry that asking for help or having someone look over your should could make you look stupid or weak. However, what’s a worse crime: Looking dumb in a newsroom (and spoiler alert- you won’t look like that when you ask for help) or looking dumb in the general public? If you don’t know something, ask. It really works.

Four things other high school administrators should learn from the Oshkosh North Star situation

I’ll be the first to admit, I was stunned at the way in which the Oshkosh Area School District decided to end the crisis involving the school’s publication, the North Star. If you missed the previous posts you can find them here and here and here.

The short version is that the district issued a two-page press release on Monday, saying it will no longer pursue any action in regard to the Hans Nelson story. It also stated the district has put the publication back into the hands of the students and the adviser and it will work to put in place a policy that codifies this for the future.

I have never seen a district turn that fast or that hard in that direction on an issue like this. And as my mother always told me, “If you’re going to criticize, you have to be willing to praise.” I emailed the district folks and thanked them for their work on this and I offered to help with the new policy in any way I can. The district made the smart play here and the folks there deserve the credit for that.

Other districts could learn a few things from how this all came to pass, so feel free to give this a read and consider using it if your administration decides to take a shot across the bow at your student media:

 

CENSORING THE STUDENT MEDIA IN THIS ERA IS POINTLESS

Administrators at Oshkosh North weren’t the first people to try this kind of information repression, nor will they be the last. However, I think it’s important for any administration to fully understand the point of censorship and why it has absolutely no chance of succeeding.

The idea behind censorship, in its purest form, is to eliminate the ability of people in an audience to get information on a given topic. If you have the ability to completely black out coverage of a topic, you will succeed in suppressing that information from reaching the readers and thus keep secret whatever it is you want to hide. This is why censoring a student newspaper in the digital era makes about as much sense as trying to catch water in a pasta strainer.

In this case, the district managed to pull the article off the website and stop people from seeing this information there. What happened next? WBAY, FOX11, at least two other journalists and one blog hack showed up at a public listening session where Brock Doemel outlined, on the record, every aspect of what was in his article. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the USA Today-Wisconsin network did a deep dive into this as well, only further focusing attention on this situation.

In addition, students have been sharing information via social media ever since this guy disappeared, other media outlets have offered to publicize the story and now everyone with internet access now knows what happened. The district’s press release seemed to indicate they realized this had gotten way more attention than if they had left the story alone.

Simply put, censoring the student media to keep this issue quiet works about as well as trying to extinguish your campfire with a bucket of gasoline. It. Doesn’t. Work.

EVEN IF YOU WIN, YOU LOSE

I was having a hard time making this clear to the attorney for the district when we spoke last week, so maybe I’ll do better here. I kept trying to explain that using the Hazelwood decision like a cudgel, treating student press rights as “less than” and coming down like a ton of bricks on students and media advisers doesn’t work.

Legally speaking, administrators usually have the Hazelwood precedent on their side, but a) it’s not the silver bullet people think it is and b) it was meant as a shield, not a sword at the time it was decided. Go back and read the decision. It’s terrible, but the core rationale behind this isn’t “Give administrators the right to censor at will just for funzies.”

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say censoring administrators run into a judge who has a strict interpretation of Hazelwood, hates student press and will side with an administrator, regardless of the situation, they will STILL lose. For starters, the administrators haven’t prevented the information they wanted to silence to remain private. Even worse, they have to go to court and beat up on one of their own students as a part of the process.  The court of law may side with them but the court of public opinion will never forgive them.

As one alumnus of Oshkosh North pointed out to me, the media coverage of this issue wasn’t even about the bathrooms or the Hans Nelson at this point. It was about how the administration tried to kneecap one of its own students and one of its own institutions. The whole narrative changed and they realized they were on the wrong side of it. That’s why the decisions they made were the smart move. Other schools can learn something from them on this one, for sure.

 

THIS DRAWS MORE ATTENTION, THE KIND YOU DON’T LIKE

I got to sit through the core of the school board meeting last week, as the open forum session where I could speak came at the middle of the event. In doing so, I learned a ton of great things that the schools in the district are doing. The robotics team won state and is now headed to nationals. The students are putting on an incredible play that I want to see now. The student newspaper at the other high school in the district won a ton of awards at the state media competition. In all, there were at least a dozen really cool accomplishments highlighted that the district has every right to shout from the rooftops.

And yet the one thing everyone was talking about the next day in regard to this district was the administrative overreach of a principal and the suppression of free press in Oshkosh. That’s what people found the next day when they Googled “Oshkosh North” and looked under news. It was what showed up on the nightly news and in multiple newspapers. It’s also got people on social media tweeting at them, sending emails and letters.

The district essentially came to the conclusion outlined in Filak’s First Rule of Holes: When you find yourself in one, stop digging. They backed off of Doemel and adviser Jason Cummings, went back to the spirit of the law for the North Star and they agreed to move forward to change the policy for good. Once they get this nailed down through the board, I’m hoping they make the announcement to show they completed this whole process so everyone can feel good as they move on.

That will get you the kind of attention that befits a quality educational institution.

 

THE MORE YOU TOUCH IT, THE RISKIER IT IS FOR YOU

Opening up the door to allow students to do whatever they want under the guidance of an honest-to-goodness journalistic adviser can scare the hell out of administrators.

In some cases, it’s because the admin folks are control freaks who enjoy dominion over all they survey, like an Alexander the Great with a master key. In other cases, it’s because they have been told a squillion times about the liability that that comes when a kid does a dumb thing. In other cases, it’s because nobody likes hearing bad things about a place they care about, especially if they are responsible for the upkeep of that place’s image.

I’m sure I’m missing a few other reasons, but the point is, this idea of giving a group of kids free reign over a publication with the school’s blessing can seem terrifying.

So why not slam the lid on this thing, eliminate the risk and take control over the whole thing? Because that puts you at even greater risk than you are if you opened up the whole thing and let kids do whatever they want.

The minute you touch the student media, you put yourself in the unenviable position of being responsible for it. That means the one day you blow off reading an article and some kid libels a janitor, that’s on you and the district. The attorney for the Oshkosh district told me after the listening session that the district is “where the deep pockets are in the case of a lawsuit.” Right. Which is why you don’t want your pockets associated with those people who might go digging.

Court rulings, even those after Hazelwood, have found that the best case a district can make against being successfully sued for the content of a student media outlet is to leave the content decisions in the hands of the students.

In other words, you break it, you bought it.

Which actually reinforces an even larger point when it comes to the students’ behavior. If you provide them with the ability to control the dice and yet the responsibility for dealing with the blow back from anything they publish, you train them to treat that responsibility seriously.

If you tell them that you’re going to be backstopping everything they want to run, you will have one of two unpleasant scenarios:

  1. They will be less diligent when it comes to accuracy, ethics and other similar things, thus leading to riskier journalism due to their lack of care.
  2. They’ll spend half of their time trying to sneak something past you because it’s fun to mess with authority, thus forcing you to spend most of your day on Urban Dictionary trying to find out if ‘mercan is a patriotic typo or something that should result in a phone call to the author’s parents.

“This is not just about some locked bathrooms anymore:” Open records requests, allegations of fabrication and threats of a lawsuit follow the media coverage of censorship at the Oshkosh North Star

If you missed Thursday’s post on the Oshkosh school district’s attempt to censor the students at the North Star, force a reporter to give up a confidential source and impose a policy of prior restraint, you can catch the link here.

Once you read the story, if you feel compelled to make your position heard on this topic, please consider contacting any or all of the following people:

  • Oshkosh North Principal Jacquelyn Kiffmeyer: jacquelyn.kiffmeyer@oshkosh.k12.wi.us
  • Oshkosh Superintendent Vickie Cartwright:
    vickie.cartwright@oshkosh.k12.wi.us
  • Barbara Herzog, the school board president:
    herzogb@uwosh.edu

 

If you just want the short version of the situation, try this:

  • Student journalist writes story administrators don’t like
  • Administration censors student publication, demands name of confidential source
  • Student journalist refuses, requests open records to support the story
  • Administration requests $138 and access to the newspaper’s files before processing request
  • Student journalist refuses, goes to school board listening session to discuss this
  • Media gets wind of all this, everything jumps up a notch

That’s about as tight as I can do it.

The school board listening session and the school board meeting that followed allowed multiple people (including me) to talk about how this approach to student media wasn’t in the district’s best interest. Superintendent Vickie Cartwright stated in the meeting that there was no intended quid-pro-quo approach for the public records and that once the article’s author, Brock Doemel, produced the cash, the records were all his. (If you go back to the previous post and reread both of the response letters, I am uncertain as to how that statement jibes with what they sent the students, but at least this was now on the record.)

Doemel and fellow student journalist Tess Fitzhenry went to the admin building on Thursday to seal the deal:

FOIABrock

Doemel also had to go back to school on Thursday to finish off his week of classes and such. He said a lot of people at Oshkosh North supported the efforts he and Fitzhenry were putting forth.

“I was overwhelmed by the support I received from peers, teachers, and faculty on Thursday and Friday,” he said in an email. “Students and staff alike are well aware of the culture of secrecy that exists within the Oshkosh Area School District, and I’m committed to changing that culture for the better, starting with getting to the bottom of this story and ensuring that future student writers can practice journalism without fear of censorship or retribution.”

In the mean time, the story jumped up another notch when Devi Shastri wrote an incredibly detailed story for the USA Today-Wisconsin Network, which includes the Oshkosh Northwestern and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Revelations about this situation included the following:

  • Cartwright said she and North Star adviser Jason Cummings agreed to take the story down because they began “thinking about journalism ethics and guidelines and spoke to another staff member.”
  • Cartwright said Doemel’s characterization of his interactions with Principal Jacquelyn Kiffmeyer were “false,” noting that she had spoken to Kiffmeyer, who is on medical leave. Cartwright was not present during those interactions.
  • The district is operating under a student media policy crafted for it by Neola, a “policy mill,” according to the Student Press Law Center. What makes this even weirder is that the district’s administrative guidelines for student press are exactly the opposite of what the district’s policy states:
    • Administrative guidelines: “No student media, whether non-school-sponsored of official, will be reviewed by school administrators prior to distribution or withheld from distribution,” the 2018 guideline states. “The school assumes no liability for the content of any student publication, and urges all student journalists to recognize that with editorial control comes responsibility, including the responsibility to follow professional journalism standards each school year.”
    • FROM THE DISTRICT POLICY: “All school-sponsored student publications and productions are nonpublic forums. While students may address matters of interest or concern to their readers/viewers, as nonpublic forums, the style and content of the student publications and productions can be regulated for legitimate pedagogical, school-related reasons. School officials shall routinely and systematically review and, if necessary, restrict the style and/or content of all school-sponsored student publications and productions prior to publication/performance in a reasonable manner that is neutral as to the viewpoint of the speaker. Legitimate pedagogical concerns are not confined to academic issues, but include the teaching by example of the shared values of a civilized social order, which consists of not only independence of thought and frankness of expression but also discipline, courtesy/civility, and respect for authority. School officials may further prohibit speech that is grammatically incorrect, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences.”
  • The lawyer for Hans Nelson, the subject of the article that started all this, issued a statement to Shastri, stating the article was “false and defamatory” and that Nelson is considering legal action as a result of the article.
  • Cartwright said the district now believes Doemel doesn’t have a source within the school district who told him anything about Nelson’s situation.

Some of these things seemed a bit odd, so I emailed Doemel and Cartwright a few questions about this. I got this back immediately from Cartwright:

CartwrightRobo

(NOTE: If Cartwright does get back to me, I’ll post her responses on the blog. I did get an email note from an alumnus of Oshkosh North who said he spoke with Cartwright for about an hour the other day regarding this issue. So, the superintendent is around and is discussing the story and the policy, both of which are important aspect of this situation. The alumnus noted that the board is open to reevaluating the policy and that Cartwright will be involved in that during the process. That’s all I know from the district standpoint.)

Doemel did respond to my questions and said he disagreed with the way in which Cartwright explained how the school dealt with the story and also how it treated him.

“Mr. Jason Cummings, our faculty advisor, removed the article after talking with another teacher, who feared Cummings might face discipline for it,” Doemel said in the email “It was not removed, as Cartwright claimed, because Cummings was questioning the ethics of my writing. The Superintendent’s account of how I was treated by Principal Jacquelyn Kiffmeyer is also false, and I’m upset that Dr. Cartwright has not taken more care to investigate my treatment, but instead shrugs it off as if it didn’t affect me.”

After several attempts to get Doemel to roll over on his source, the district appears to have taken the position that no such source exists. According to Shastri’s article the district sees the source issue a “non-issue,” which makes little sense, given the previous statements made regarding the story and its source.

For his part, Doemel said he is standing by his story and he’s upset that the district is essentially calling him a liar.

“The most concerning of Cartwright’s quotes, however, is her sudden, out-of-thin-air assertion that I must not have had a source for my story and made the whole thing up,” he said. “Dr. Cartwright’s rhetoric is especially dangerous in an era where truth has taken a back seat to sensationalism and personal opinion. I won’t let it go unanswered. I’m not just some angry kid with a predisposed hatred for authority. I’m a young man who carefully researched and wrote an important story.”

In response to Nelson’s attorney threatening to sue him, Doemel said he isn’t worried, because the story was factually based and was intended only to inform the school what happened to him. On a personal note, he added that he likes Nelson, but that this issue has grown beyond a single article.

“Mr. Nelson was a highly-respected assistant principal, and I enjoyed his good sense of humor and his leadership over the last couple of years,” he said. “If I had a way to get in touch with Mr. Nelson, I would remind him that this is not just about some locked bathrooms anymore. It’s about poorly-written policy and school district officials’ gross mishandling of the situation.”

 

 

 

“You don’t have the talent to win on talent alone:” 5 quotes from Herb Brooks and how they apply to your life as an up-and-coming journalist

In an odd twist of calendar calisthenics, Feb. 22 fell on a Friday and Feb. 24 fell on a Sunday, the same as they did 39 years ago when a team of relative unknown hockey players took the ice for the United States at the Lake Placid Olympics. The average age of the team members was 21 and the team was coached by the last man cut from the only U.S. team to ever win a gold medal in hockey to that point in history.

A guide to the Olympics put out by its own committee that year picked the U.S team to finish sixth or seventh. Instead, it toppled the greatest team in the world in a “Miracle on Ice” on Friday and finished off Finland on Sunday by scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes to secure the gold.

Woven among the various stories, legends and myths surrounding that team and its journey are a few of what the team called “Brooks-isms.” These often-caustic sayings from coach Herb Brooks kept the players motivated and often shaking their heads, wondering what the hell it was their coach was trying to say.

Brooks.jpg

A much younger version of me and my friend Allison with the great Herb Brooks.

In honor of what Sports Illustrated dubbed the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, consider these five quotes from Herb Brooks and how they apply to your life as an up-and-coming journalist:

 

“You don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.”

Brooks use to yell this at his players when they decided to coast against inferior opponents instead of really taking the game to them. In one infamous incident in Norway, his team loafed its way to a 3-3 tie against a really weak Norwegian squad. After the game, Brooks refused to let his team leave the ice and instead forced them to conduct skating drills until the guy running the arena shut off the lights.

Then, Brooks had them continue skating in the dark.

His point was a good one in that if you rely solely on your talent, you will often fail because talent only gets you so far in life. If you think you’re “too good” to cover a speech or a news conference, it’s at that precise moment that you will screw something up and end up in a whole lot of trouble. You need to treat each time you ply your trade like it is the most important thing you will do and make absolutely sure you give it everything you have. Failing to do that means you’re setting yourself up to fail.

“And maybe I’m a little smarter now than I was before for all the stupid things I’ve done.”

I found the other day this among the various quotes attributed to Brooks and I never realized he said something like this. However, I’ve told students something similar for years: “I’ve learned more from the things I’ve done wrong than anything I ever did right.”

I noticed that my students these days tend to fear mistakes and stress over failure to the point that they miss the point. As I have written more than a few times, you will screw up here. You are not on the side of a lunch box. That said, you have to know WHAT you did wrong, WHY it went wrong and HOW to make sure you don’t screw up that way again.

If you end up in a situation where an assignment goes to crap or you failed a test or something else goes horribly, horribly wrong, worry less about the grade and worry more about the WHY behind the grade. There are always professors out there who want to torture the heck out of students just because, but those are few and far between. If you go to the professor with the idea of, “I need to understand what went wrong so I can get better at this,” you will improve your future work and you probably will gain some serious respect.

“I’m not looking for the best players. I’m looking for the right ones.”

This is a bit of a cheat, as it was a line from the movie “Miracle,” but Brooks said similar things throughout his career in a variety of ways. He talked about looking at talent second and people first, as well as finding players by looking at who they are more and what they can do less.

Brooks understood something that is important for you to know: It’s not about your pedigree, your fancy internships, the degree from the “Lord Almighty School of Journalism and Deification” or anything else that has that shiny patina of “Look how important I am” that matters.

What matters is the way in which you will work to succeed, how hard you will push yourself to make yourself a valuable commodity, how badly you want something and to what degree you will sacrifice part of yourself for the greater good.

The “right” players are always going to beat the “best” players, as his team proved during that 1980 Olympic run.

 

“Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.”

People always tell you that life is short. It’s not true. Life is long, especially if you don’t decide to live it. When most of you are getting out of school, you’ll be sitting in that early-20s area of life. The average life expectancy of people in the U.S. is about 78 years, and that’s accounting for the fact that we’ve seen a decline in it over the past couple years.  This means you have more life on the “coming up next” part of your life than the “I’m done with this” part of your life.

You have time. Take a shot at something.

Risk is scary and in some cases it’s not worth it, but you need to at least consider what it is that would make you happy and try it out. Eventually, you will have more responsibilities, more things weighing you down and more reasons not to do something. Take a calculated risk on a career path. Try a job that’s going to give you a chance at something unique. Do something that you said you always wanted to do.

If you don’t, the regrets will eat you alive.

 

“Play your game.”

With 10 minutes to go in the semi-final game against the Soviet Union, Mike Eruzione scored to give the U.S. a 4-3 lead. Goalie Jim Craig said once that it was “like banging a bee’s nest. All we’re gonna do is piss them off.”

The Soviet team had the ability to score five goals in three minute. Ken Dryden, who added commentary for the game, said in later years that in situations like this you dared to hope that you could win and then the Soviets would just crush your hope and leave you for dead.

Brooks knew this and he knew his team might panic and this whole thing could fall apart. He just kept telling his team, “Play your game.” Cameras during the end of that game caught him repeating that phrase like it was a mantra and it apparently worked. The team kept playing the way it knew how to play and it gave the Soviets fits.

The key here for you is pretty simple: Play your game. In a lot of cases, students make the mistake of chasing someone else’s dream or trying to prove themselves to be better based on other people’s standards. That’s crap. Play your own game and stick to what you do best and what make you happy and you’ll be fine.

 

Final note: My favorite Brooks-ism is one that probably shouldn’t be repeated, but I will anyway. After his team knocked off the U.S.S.R., all it had to do was beat Finland to win the gold medal. Eruzione recalled that the team was excited to go out and play until Brooks walked into the locker room:

He looked at the team and said, ‘If you lose this game, you’ll take it with you to your (expletive) grave. He turned around to walk out, stopped, look back and said, ‘Your (EXPLETIVE) grave.

Something else to keep in mind, I s’pose…

Stuff I Said: Talking about “Covington Catholic MAGA Kid vs. Native-American Drummer” with The Clackamas Print

After the “Covington Catholic MAGA Kid vs. Native-American Drummer” post ran, a student journalist reached out from Clackamas Community College in Oregon to get a few of my thoughts on how speed and accuracy tend to bump into each other a lot in media these days.

(In case you missed it, the family of Nick Sandmann, the student in the video, is suing the Washington Post over its coverage of him. The suit, which asks for $250 million, argues that publication ran several “false and defamatory” articles and backed them up with similarly problematic tweets.)

The interview questions were good and in reading the responses I gave, I found myself saying, yet again, “Well, hell… I really need a filter. Or a translator from ‘Filak-ism’ to English.” Here’s one such moment:

TCP: What do you think the coverage of both the BuzzFeed story and the Covington Catholic Kids says about modern journalism?

A: I don’t know if this is necessarily a “modern journalism” thing, other than to say the reach of media is now able to do a lot more damage when a story goes south. It’s like if I were to be reckless with a firearm: If I’m reckless with a .22 pistol, I can hurt some people, but if I’m reckless with a rocket launcher, I can do a lot more damage. That’s the difference between things in the pre-digital era and now.

Yep. I definitely need a translator… In any case, you can read the whole exchange here.

Your parents’ generation sucked at this, too: 4 helpful thoughts on finding your way through life

Scott Cunning, an associate professor of economics at Baylor University, recently laid out his life path and his feelings regarding jumping into grad school right after college as part of a Twitter thread.  He makes a number of points that are good, including the idea that grad school shouldn’t be about inertia or self-doubt, but rather when you know what you want (and that you want grad school). He talks about job choices and the benefits to getting one as well here, and I highly recommend giving the whole thing a read.

The nexus of his thesis is something students should keep in mind: You won’t know what you want to do until you end up running into it. That can make for some pretty high levels of anxiety for students and parents, as well as some really awkward family gatherings where random relatives feel it is their duty in life to say, “So you STILL don’t know what you’re doing yet?” instead of “Nice to see you. Pass the potatoes.”

In hopes of helping you defend your psyche from the chaotic panic and shutting down the naysayers who keep blaming your generation’s downfall on “FaceSpace and those iText things,” here are four things to keep in mind:

 

Everyone in college is lost and that’s just fine: At the beginning of each semester, I ask the students in each of my classes what they want to do with themselves once they get out of school. Some of them have a vague notion, half of an idea or a general sense, and that is about the BEST it gets. Only once in all my time teaching did I ever really have a kid tell me something straight-up honest and it was last semester:

Me: So what do you want to do with your IWM (Interactive Web Management) degree?
Him: Make a ton of money.
Me: How will that work?
Him: I don’t know. I’m gonna figure that out when I graduate.

For the rest of the people in my class, it’s like this: “I want to graduate, get a job, not move into my parents’ basement and not have to answer stupid questions like this one from every relative who runs a business selling wiener dogs out of a mobile home and somehow thinks they’re better than me.” Spoiler alert: That’s the American dream of this generation.

Cunning is right, though, in that you won’t know what you want to do until you do it, which is why they force you to take a boatload of general education requirements in college: They figure you don’t know what you want, so they give you a taste of a bunch of stuff.

Instead of taking those classes with only the edict of “Please, God, not another 8 a.m. on Fridays,” look at classes that might interest you and see where they take you. That’s how you bump into things you might like to do for the rest of your life and find some direction. In the mean time, it’s not a problem to not know.

 

Being good at something doesn’t mean you should do it: The longest-running argument in my life is between my mom and me about what I should have done right out of college. She still believes that I would have made a great speechwriter for politicians, based on my various skill sets. I liked to write and had the ability to turn a phrase fairly easily. I did well in public speaking courses and extracurricular activities, such as debate and forensics. I worked well under pressure and could logically process information quickly. It seemed like a perfect fit for me.

Here’s the counterargument I had for mom: I hate politics.

I spent a lot of time with political figures during college, ranging from student government folks on up through the city and county leaders and found I disliked the majority of them and their attitudes. I never understood the wrangling and the gamesmanship they used to carve up their little portion of the world just a little bit finer. I also hated the arrogance and ego associated with the jobs. Why on Earth would I want to write things for people like this so they could snow under a whole bunch of voters in hopes of furthering their own petty agendas?

The point is, Mom and I were both right in some way. She was right that I had the talent and skill set to do this as a job, and I was right that I’d rather gargle with raw sewage than subject myself to that career path. Thus, the maxim outlined above.

You might have a talent, a skill or some general proclivities that push you into a realm of study or onto a career path, but keep in mind that just because you can do something, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should. If you don’t like something, don’t put yourself in a position where you dedicate your life to it.

In this regard, Dad had the better take on this topic: Find something you like doing and you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

You are not a fraud, even though you will feel like one: During my doctoral program, we had a class in which every faculty member in the school could come in and discuss his or her research or offer us advice. Of all the advice I got at that point, a couple stuck with me, including this one from Dr. Stephanie Craft:

A few years into your career, you are going to look around and panic because you think that you are a fraud. You will worry that you aren’t good enough or smart enough or whatever and you figure that it’s only a matter of time before everyone else figures this out, too. You then start counting the days until the entire illusion you’ve built will shatter and you won’t know what to do.

Don’t worry. It’s not true. You are not a fraud. You will be able to push past this.

A few years ago, I read about this concept called “imposter syndrome” that essentially captures this whole notion perfectly. It happens to a lot of people and it’s not something you can necessarily dodge in advance of its arrival. When it hit me, it didn’t matter how much work I had done, how well I had done at that work or what everyone else thought about how awesome I was. All that mattered was that I figured I’d eventually get caught short and revealed as something between a carnival huckster and a guy selling snake oil out of the back of a covered wagon.

The one thing that made the difference was remembering what Dr. Craft told me and realizing her prescience on this fraud fear arriving also made it likely that she was right that I could beat it.

 

Your parents’ generation sucked at this, too: If your parents tell you that they knew everything when they were your age or that they had a job or that they knew their destiny, I’ve got two words for you: “Reality Bites.” This movie came out 25 years ago, or roughly around the time many of your parents were finishing up their college careers and looking around for whatever that next stage of life would provide. This movie really captured the post-collegiate zeitgeist better than almost anything else at the time, and it provides you with the perfect time capsule to look at what your parents dealt with.

You have Lelaina, Winona Ryder’s character, who was working as a young assistant producer for a cheesy morning show where the host (John Mahoney) treated her like crap.  When she got fired for perhaps the best on-air prank possible, she tried to find a job in her field, only to realize that she couldn’t get hired anywhere. Her father thought her generation had no work ethic. She craps all over her friend Vickie for offering her a job at The Gap, and falls into the bell jar of trying to find meaning in life via a “psychic partner” phone line. It only gets weirder from there (although the final love connection she makes is really too Hollywood for its own good).

If you strip away that last part, you realize that this generation didn’t know anything either, and I say that as PART OF IT. Sure, she fell in love at the end, which is pretty much what the film industry was selling at that point, but she didn’t have a job, was dead broke, had to use her father’s gas card to pay bills and there was no sense she was figuring it out. (And yes, that’s why reality really does bite.) Still, that generation eventually dug in, figured something out and managed to build a life that produced you.

Whatever they tell you about their origin story, view it through the prism of “Reality Bites” and you’ll probably be closer to reality.

The Life, Death and Rebirth of The Daily Cardinal: A Reminder of How We Still Need to Keep All Student Media Alive

Cardinal T-Shirt

The other student newspaper’s staffers put our failings on their front page. When we saved the paper from ruin, we put their front page on a T-shirt.

The Daily Cardinal gave me my entire life.

And 24 years ago today, it almost died.

I honestly intended not to write this today, as the story is old and threadbare at this point. When I tell it, I feel like the grandfather at Thanksgiving who tells the same story each year, only to experience the eye rolls and deep sighs at the table. But this time, something more important than commemoration is at stake, because the Cardinal’s story may be one of the last of its kind in student media, and that is a problem we must address.

Since 1892, The Daily Cardinal has served as a student newspaper and media resource for the students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, making it the sixth-oldest student daily paper in the country. William Wesley Young launched it on April 4 of that year, and staffers long after his departure told stories of him racing his horse down the street with his proofs, hoping to make the printing deadline.

Since Young’s time, the paper has turned out more quality journalists, Pulitzer winners, entrepreneurs and legends that to start a list here would guarantee this post would go on forever and yet still omit numerous important people. On April 4, 1992, the paper celebrated its 100th anniversary, toasting these people and the thousands of others who had written, photographed, drawn, designed, sold, distributed and pressed it over that time.

Three years later on Feb. 7, 1995, the paper closed.

At the time, nobody on staff knew for sure why it wouldn’t print the next day or what led to the “reorganization” the paper’s administration tried to play it off as. We found out the next day, as all the other papers in the city seemed to know the truth: We were broke. We owed our printers more than $30,000 and they refused to print without the resolution of that debt. We also owed money to dozens of other organizations and companies. We couldn’t even get our lawyer to help us figure things out because we owed his law firm money.

According to Allison Hantschel’s incredible history on the Cardinal, when the debts were tallied and the cash on hand measured, the paper owed more than $137,700 and had $43.71 in its checking account.

It was both way too real and almost completely unbelievable at the same time.

Over the next two months, the publisher, general manager and sales manager all quit. Board members spent a lot of time in meetings, scrambling to find out what had happened, how it happened and who was to blame for it. Most of the staff left and at one point, there were basically three people left in the office.

I was one of them. I had been elected city editor about six weeks earlier. After “The Shutdown” I was responsible for trying to bill an entire year worth of advertising with the goal of paying off our debts and closing the paper “with honor,” as one of our board members used to say.

At one point, the other two people, also former editorial staffers, came to me and asked for my key to the office. They were done, tired and broken. They just wanted to go home. The plan was to turn in the keys to the board, shutter the place and go on with life. For reasons I still can’t explain, I gave them an old key that didn’t work anymore. They locked up the office and left. Once they were gone, I went back in and finished the billing.

For the next six months, it was life on a flaming high wire, as a skeleton crew of former staffers and crazy people worked to pump life back into what everyone else saw as a rotting corpse. Money came in, debts were paid and disasters continued to emerge. Every day, it was a sense of “We’re probably dead, but let’s see what we can accomplish today.”

I skipped six weeks worth of class, spending hours and days at the paper. (I don’t recommend that approach.) My two best friends, neither of whom were working at the paper at the time of “The Shutdown,” came back to rebuild the paper. It was like climbing a greased flagpole in a blizzard, but eventually it worked. “If we ever print again,” became “When we print again.”

On Sept. 1, 1995, the paper published again. It hasn’t stopped since.

Without The Cardinal, I never would have gotten a job at the Wisconsin State Journal shortly after the relaunch. Without that job, I never would have gotten a chance to teach at the college level. Those two experiences gave me just enough value that George Kennedy hired me to work at Mizzou three years after that. Without that, I don’t get a doctorate, become a student media adviser, work as a professor, publish books or a dozen other things that make my life my life.

Beyond the journalism experiences, The Cardinal introduced me to my wife, my two best friends, the godparents of my child and the people who would make me a godparent. It gave me a home and a life that I never would have had during college otherwise.

The reason I decided to write about this today is because my story is interesting but not unique. Student media has provided countless students experiences like the one I had. College students with half-baked ambitions and a shaky sense of self cross the threshold of newsrooms all across this country and find themselves every day. They learn skills, ply their trade and grow into amazing members of The Fourth Estate. They also find true friends and a surrogate family. Calling a student publication “an activity” or “a club” is like calling Godzilla “a lizard:” It’s true, but wildly inaccurate and extremely reductive.

It also occurred to me that The Cardinal’s story isn’t unique in one way, but is becoming more and more rare in another. As I was rolling through one of my feeds today, I saw this article on Drexel University’s student newspaper, The Triangle. The paper ran into financial difficulty and has likely published its last issue. Last week, I got word that The North Texas Daily, the student paper at the University of North Texas, had its funding cut and was heading into similarly dire financial straits.

Last year, we talked at length about The Sunflower at Wichita State University, which looked to be headed toward the end of its 123-year run. And, even though I don’t think I’m a jinx, our student newspaper found itself in a massive fundraising effort to keep the publication going. When it comes to publications ceasing to print or in danger of closing entirely, The Cardinal seemed to be ahead of its time. And, to borrow a phrase from a friend, it’s a club nobody wants to be a member of and we don’t want any more members.

The unique aspect of The Cardinal, however, is that it found a way back home. The presses rolled again, a web presence emerged and students continued to take part in an important part of life. Thanks in large part to folks like Anthony Sansone, who essentially built The Daily Cardinal Alumni Association, the students there get additional financial help from former Cardinalistas. The staffers also get opportunities to learn from alumni as well, thanks to the DCAA’s mentorship and training programs.

I don’t know how many of these other programs are lucky enough to find support for their news operations, be it through university funds, alumni giving or some other miracle I would like to know more about. What I do know is that student media is too important to too many people to let it die quietly among budget cuts, shrinking ad revenue and “I’ll just read stuff on Twitter” shrugs.

Below is a list of student media outlets that have active fundraising efforts available online. As I continue to get more names and links, I’ll continue to update them here. (Feel free to contact me via the form on this site.) Please spread the word and contribute if you can. As the folks at The Triangle noted, if everyone on Drexel’s campus gave a buck, the paper could run for a year.

Keep student media alive.