The Role of Student Newspapers

Student newspapers are the most read medium on campus with over 33% of students reading their paper daily (flytedesk study), and they’re not going anywhere. With professional print mediums achieving lack luster performance in recent years, there is a unique niche for student publications to become the next wave of investigative journalists and serve as their community’s news source. They are deeply ingrained institutions, many have deep and unwavering support from their associated universities, and they’re not going anywhere.

Student newspapers can not only engage and represent their campuses, but also have an opportunity to represent their broader communities. One of our partner papers, The Daily Tar Heel, understands this opportunity well, “I would say that we are more than just a college newspaper, we serve a community,” O’Donovan said. “Our readers are professors, neighbors, alums and longtime residents. But the engine and energy of the paper are the students” (source).

The Daily Tar Heel understands the need for community-based papers and the opportunity created by many of America’s small town papers struggling to stay afloat. In 2016 and 2017 the Daily Tar Heel plans to launch classifieds, wedding and engagement announcements, obituaries, and they even have plans to start a creative agency aimed at servicing local small businesses, further engaging their local community. Students will be the main workforce in this agency, offering services such as sponsored content creation, graphic design, photography, and social media. This is a win-win for UNC and Chapel Hill, giving the students crucial professional experience and the community a valuable resource.

On the other hand, Marshall University sees the role of the college newspaper a little differently, specifying four, more campus-based purposes: First, chronicling life on campus from athletics to politics to opinion pieces about local, national, and international news. Second, providing a forum for university stakeholders to debate on newsworthy issues. Third, acting as a watch dog, uncovering problems and crime on campus, and lastly, providing a training ground for the next class of professional journalists (source). They believe a student-run newspaper should do what they do best, focus on the university.

So what is the right role for university papers moving forward? Surely we appreciate that each paper will have to make this decision for themselves, but we applaud the Daily Tar Heel’s efforts to engage the broader community. At flytedesk we believe that the opportunity for student-run newspapers is much bigger than just serving their university.

flytedesk recently conducted a study of university and college newspaper readership and student sentiments their schools’ newspaper, and we’ll just let the data speak for itself. Just over 33% of students read their campus newspaper daily, and 42% read nearly every issue. 78% of students are likely to trust a recommendation from their student newspaper, and many students see their newspapers as thought leaders on campus, with the majority believing that their newspaper frequently discusses important issues.

Student newspapers have a surprising wide-reach across campus and the broader community and have earned the trust of their represented communities, with over 78% of students believing their newspaper is a trustworthy source. We’d like to see more newspapers seize the larger opportunity like the Daily Tar Heel and fill the bigger and bigger void left the disappearance of many small town papers.

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