Everything That’s Wrong With Student Journalism

Joonsoo Yi:

Student journalism is what its literal phraseology represents: journalism run by students. Ergo, student journalism is a breeding ground for future journalists, a free trial of an actual product, if you will. So for most people, who are interested in becoming journalists, but do not intend to pay thousands of pounds for a journalism course to see what it’s like, student journalism is a risk-free activity that is worth getting into. However, it would not be entirely truthful to claim that in an imperfect world, student journalism is exonerated from its inevitable imperfections.

Firstly, student journalism does not understand its audience. It wants to pander to the students on the campus (as it should), with the subliminal aim of reaching a larger audience. So, if a student newspaper writes about local or campus-related issues, it understands its audience. But when it dedicates the vast majority of its issues on things like the corruption in the Turkish government, Marco Rubio’s immigration policies, or Leicester City’s transfer targets, it does not understand what it is doing. If anyone were to desire learning about these issues, they would go to The Guardian or Washington Post, etc., which explains the lack of readership among students regarding non-local or non-campus related issues.

Secondly, student journalism resorts to yellow journalism, or far worse. One of the reasons for publishing non-local articles is because student publications face the reality that there are not enough interesting local and campus related issues on a daily, weekly, biweekly, and sometimes monthly, basis. Consequently, it is not uncommon to see student newspapers publish articles that confuse their readership (students), as to why they were published in the first place. Small news stories become a big deal, and news stories are sometimes created from non-issues. There is nothing inherently wrong with exaggerations, in the same way that people who tend to exaggerate when recounting their events to other people are not guilty of lying, but it is bad taste to do so, and it comes off as manipulative and pathetic for most people who do not understand the publications’ POV. They need to publish, and if there are not too many publishable stories circulating around, they need to either create stories or blow small stories out of proportion.

Lastly, the previous two points combined teach the student journalists involved to become intrusive, manipulative and selfish. People who were previously involved with student journalism, but left because they were fed up with how things were run, would agree with this.

Those that are involved with student journalism tend to become intrusive, because their job is to create stories, or to find little traces that could turn into a story. So, as lawyers or police officers would (except they are not lawyers or police officers, or even employed journalists) they go around asking people a lot of questions, or not even bother with a face-to-face chat, so they find the people they want to talk to on Facebook or Twitter. There is nothing unethical about this, but then again it is not unlawful to be annoying or creepy.

The point about manipulation and selfishness are related to the same problem. People who stick around student journalism do so with the aspirations of inflating their CVs. This explains why the student journalists bother going the length they do to create stories from non-issues. They certainly subscribe to the “quantity over quality” principle, and create as many stories as possible. The lingo “no chill” applies here, ever so aptly. The manipulation bit is a natural consequence of this selfish, self-interested, business. In a room of 20 selfish people that run a student publication, where everyone is vying to outdo one another, manipulation is an expected phenomenon. There comes the lying, back-stabbing, fake facades, which are at least consistent with the journalistic practice they engage themselves in.

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