Newspapers ‘Get Schooled’ by College Students

By Pam Robinson

Jul 8, 2009 6:18am

  Newspapers ‘Get Schooled’ by College Students

Students from the West Virginia Uncovered project are working with editors and writers from small, rural newspapers on ways to use  the Internet to deliver news and information.  Pocahontas Times editor Pam Pritt, back left, discusses the launch of the weekly newspaper's first website.

ABC News On Campus reporter Steve Butera blogs:

As large newspapers feel the pressures related to technology and the Internet, one university is training community journalists to embrace the medium.

West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism recently established a partnership with several small newspapers.  Students, mostly seniors and graduate students, have been training newspaper editors and writers on how to use equipment they may not have used before, like high-definition cameras and video editing software.

The project began from two students who approached the school’s interim assistant dean, John Temple, last year.

“Our expectations at first were not huge,” said Temple about the project.  “We were just going to work with a handful of newspapers and do some fun stories and try and show them some multimedia that we’ve been learning.  But it turned into a much larger and organized project.”

All of the newspapers taking part in the project are small, rural, weekly publications.  Editors propose stories to the student reporters and they take part in seminars about Web site and content development.  One partner newspaper created its Web site just so it could participate in the project.

“It’s been a really good two-way relationship,” said Pam Pritt, the editor of The Pocahontas Times, a newspaper that serves more than 9,000 people.   “We’ve learned so much and gained so much from our workshops.  But I hope that students learned that community journalism is so important.”

WVU graduate Kendal Montgomery agrees that hyper-local reporting has a niche in the news industry.  “It’s good for everyone to learn more about their state.  To get in there… to focus on community journalism with these small newspapers… people depend on them.”

Stories covered by the project include a news-feature stories about pregnant inmates at a federal institution, a camouflage-themed wedding and a wildlife tour on a historic locomotive.

“IIn addition to helping community newspapers improve their Web sites, we also want to tell great stories about these communities,” Temple said.

West Virginia Uncovered has received $270,000 from the McCormick Foundation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Ford Foundation in the last year.

To look at the West Virginia Uncovered stories, visit West Virginia Uncovered.

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