Student Newspapers Keep College Communities Informed And Connected During The Pandemic

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For college students, 2020 has been a crash course in uncertainty. But through it all, student newspapers have served as a lifeline to campuses and the student community.

Here are a few local headlines:

WBUR spoke with two students at the helm of these virtual newsrooms: Victoria Bond from Lexington, Kentucky, who is the outgoing editor in chief of The Daily Free Press at Boston University; and Sarah Carlon of Barnstable, Massachusetts, who is the incoming editor in chief at The Simmons Voice at Simmons University.

Listen to the interview or read highlights below.

Interview Highlights

On the challenges of producing stories remotely.

Carlon: "We're really lucky that this semester a journalism course is actually being run — I'm taking it right now. So we've had students from that course think of stories that they want to cover around COVID and submit their stories to our newspaper.

"We've also just been taking them as they come. I think everyone ... they want to know what's going on in the community. So we've been really lucky to have a group of students who've been able to work with us in that way."

Bond: "It was definitely a challenge at first. We went from about 150 staff to about half that, working remotely. But I think we found that this was actually a really great opportunity to put some stuff out to the community that we wouldn't have been able to report on if we were just doing our day to day."

Carlon: "For me I found that it actually has gone the other way. Being a smaller school, certainly smaller than B.U., we sometimes had trouble getting content up regularly before COVID. But since everyone went home and the dust settled, it's been really great. We've had a core group of people kind of step up and cover this news that we need to cover and write the stories that they want to write as well."

Bond: "It's really easy to figure out what's important [to the student body because especially with social media and things like that, you're kind of sucked in to what they're complaining about or asking about. Facebook groups and even meme pages and things like that. They give you a real sense of what people are looking to hear about."

Carlon: "It's funny, perhaps the mean pages, because honestly, some of our best tips have come from meme pages that have been going on. It's just kind of trying to keep in line with what what people are actually thinking has been a huge help."

On how they view the missions of a student newspaper in the time of COIVD-19.

Carlon: "I think it's just made me more sure of our mission in that we have to report on what's really going on in our community and trying to be as authentic as possible to our readership. Like on Friday, we had a town hall meeting with some senior leadership and it was a little tense. It was definitely the questions that were on students minds and that needed answers, but not necessarily the questions the administration might have wanted."

Bond: "Before we had a really set schedule. We were able to publish consistently Monday through Friday. But now we're really flexible about our publishing. We're writing stories all day, not just editing at night, because our schedules allow it more now. And we're really excited to use what we've learned here and apply it to our reporting that has nothing to do with the pandemic."

This article was originally published on May 07, 2020.

This segment aired on May 6, 2020.

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Jack Lepiarz Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz was a reporter and anchor at WBUR.



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