Where does news come from?

reporterWhere does news come from? For many JACC college newspapers it comes from our journalism students .. and no where else!

This kind of makes sense because one of the missions of the student newspaper at our campuses is to serve as a lab for journalism students to learn their schools. But we really face a triple mission: train our students, cover the campus community and help develop readers.

Our insistence that we only include stuff our students produce gets in the way of those other two missions. If you come up short on photographers and writers, the end result may be that parts of our community don’t get covered.

Yet, we continue our closed systems because we are territorial and because we want to save our jobs. If students don’t have to sign up for our classes to produce content for the student newspaper, how are we going to answer those administrators who seem to think that quality education begins with 20 students?

The industry is changing. This week Reuters reports that CNN is getting ready to accept news from its readers/viewers:

The cable news network on Tuesday plans to announce it has created a new program to let users send in digital audio and video from breaking news events in their region. Users can e-mail or upload these so-called “I-Reports” directly from CNN’s site.

And online guru Steve Outing has prepared a treatise on “citizen journalism” for the Poynter web site that is worth reading.

Our online publications give us a unique opportunity to expand beyond the content our students provide. We HAVE to move beyond shovelware and find new sources of content. At Cerritos College this year we plan to team with our radio and film programs, who also are in the content-producing business, and add to our online content.

But student newpapers can go further. JACC has talked for a long time about starting a news sharing cooperative. Most talk centers around covering the state legislature (which provides an undue burden on Sacramento area schools, though Contra Costa College perhaps does best in the state) or sharing sports news/photos (still a good idea!). Those of us who use College Publisher could also take a deeper look at its built-in syndication service, forums and calendar functions. But even non-CP web sites can look for other online content provides (such as blogging services), though it may cost and definitely will challenge our notions of what belongs in a student newspaper. But focus on what your readers cannot find elsewhere easily. Local content is still best.

Got any other ideas? Here is a good place to brainstorm them. Maybe we can get past dreaming and improve ALL our publications.

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Late add: Just saw this article about how some big papers are using a service that automatically produces links to similar stories from rival paper. Interesting.

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