The college campus is a tight community. The six degrees of separation that supposedly exists among society is shortened to two degrees among college students. Everyone knows someone who's a connection to everyone else. News travels quick and bad news travels even quicker.

So the question to be asked is: What is the level of privacy accorded to college students? A story that would barely make a ripple in a city paper could make a social pariah out of someone in the college setting. Though it is not the journalist's job to protect the subject of a story, practicing responsibility is a good idea.


The biggest area of concern is the campus "police blotter." Because of the sensitive nature of accusations and guilt, especially in today's litigious society, the "police blotter" must be careful with how they report campus crime. Some papers, like Penn State's Collegian, prints the names of students arrested or summonsed in crime incidents, while Hofstra's Chronicle only prints the names of off-campus people involved in crimes. This is a result of a combination of editorial decision and public safety/police reporting. As a public university, Penn State is policed by town police, and as such, students are no different from other residents of the town of State College, Pennsylvania. On the other hand, Hofstra is a private university and hires their own "public safety" squad to enforce the school's rules. The students who pay to attend the school are handled differently than off-campus non-students, mainly in prosecution, where students go before a student tribunal while non-students go before a Nassau County judge.

This interferes with crime reporting even further, as these tribunals are closed and their decisions are not public record. This is the kind of obstacle to justice that the October 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the April 1999 New York State campus security bill aim to get over. The open reporting of crimes demanded by these bills may help make the job of a campus crime reporter a little easier.

Criticism of the campus student government is another contentious area in student reporting. Because a student leader is both a public politician and a private student, deliniating the lines of privacy is a difficult task. The total exposure of politicians in everyday media is understandable, considering the extreme power in the hands of these people. In student government the position is less crutial to maintaining everyday student life and as such, the scrutiny leveled upon them can be lessened. Also of note, the reasoning given for the invasion of public figures' lives is the money they make, making up for it.


The majority of campus news is campus events, crime and student government. Because of the irregularity of these topics, and the limitations of student journalism, the paper can fall into the trap of depending on the university's public relations department for stories. By taking the "news release" the public relations department sends out and following up on them for stories, the paper is acting, either unwittingly or willingly, as a mouthpiece for the university. An overdependence on these types of stories will give the paper a fluff feel or the look of a newsletter. While these events are a part of life on campus, there is a good chance that a bit of investigating would turn over a better story.

An internal consequence of the usage of these "happy" stories is the tendency to overcompensate for them by being hypercritical of the university. An attempt to "seem" fair and ethical, even when one's outlet truly is, is bound to end up exaggerating it ethics, often by erring to the opposite side, a human reaction to accusations of prejudice. The challenge for student papers is to avoid the temptation of being the "rebel" paper and attacking the "establishment" without being syncopathic. By limiting negative coverage to fact-based and not accusation-based stories, the paper will maintain a balanced image and still accomplish their goals.


A student journalist will not pay the bills writing for a school newspaper. Similarly. A student journalist will not complete his homework by finishing his story. These require money and time, two things, writing for a school paper will most likely not bring you. Even the most organized, time-managing student will feel the pinch of school, personal life and reporting. The question is, can a paper and its reporters avoid part-time reporting because of part-time reporters?

Some papers have adopted a split-squad style of reporting, where a morning reporter would start a story and hand-off to an evening reporter. This plan is used often at schools with a daily paper. Unfortunately. Though this technique can bring a more complete level of reporting, the writing and level of investigation can be uneven and the final product may suffer from a melding of two styles.

The perfect answer would be more staffers and some papers have been lucky to get that through recruiting, or the helpful extra-credit offered by some professors in exchange for clippings. While these are nice to have, they can, in no way, be counted on to fill the pages of a paper.

So how does the student newspaper prevent the student journalist from turning in half-hearted copy? These are a few ideas that may help"

1: Do not overestimate time boundaries. If a reporter turns in an article at deadline, suggestions should be made to the effect of "We need copy earlier." A reporter who cannot get copy in to be edited before deadline, should be shifted to an easier assignment to help them "get their chops." Allowing a reporter to continuously push the limits will not help them become better reporters.

2:Make an effort to limit "newsroom journalism." There's a good chance that the reporter who takes a press release, makes a few calls and types up their story without taking a step out of the office, probably hasn't given their full effort. Encouraging a new writer to "beat the bushes" is the best way for them to hone their interviewing and observational skills. The paper will be rewarded with more complete stories and more complete writers.

3: Know your reporter's strengths and interests. While eventually a reporter should be able to cover just about anything. A young reporter will learn quicker and work harder if their beat is of interest to them. By attempting to match a reporter to a subject, or at least allow the reporter some input into his beat assignment, the reporter will feel more of a connection to their assignment and will take it more seriously.

These ideas could help a college paper avoid the risk of part-time reporting by making the reporting more than just the final product. This is an important thing to consider when thinking about journalism ethics. If more reporters though of their stories as more than column space on a page, would the ethics of journalism be easier to dissect? I think they would be more obvious to all if each step on journalism was more of a goal than a means to an end. This doesn't mean journalists would be more ethical, but the transgressions and grey areas would be much more apparent to the reporter.