Last week’s “The Future of News Forum” raised important questions about current trends of journalism as percieved by notable members of the Twin Cities journalistic community. Their conclusions suggest that journalism is moving away from print and towards alternative forms. How is this discussion relevant here, at Carleton?
While the panel suggested the imminent obsolescence of print publications, print remains a popular format on campus with many publications providing their information on paper rather than through an alternative method. However some publications have an online presence. The Carl, for example, created a website to compliment its printed version. Further shifts towards the electronic form might in fact be imminent. As sources become accessible via the Internet as a matter of convenience and sustainability, it remains to be seen the role print journalism will have at Carleton. Other sources of news and entertainment include KRLX the student-run radio station and “The Carleton Show.” These formats resist the pressures faced by a shift in medium.
Regardless of form, Carleton hosts an impressive number of student-run news and entertainment outlets given the small size of the student body.
Carleton students consistently perpetuate a strong tradition of journalism. Cinema and Media Studies Professor Michael Griffin offers his observations of the culture of journalism. Journalism, he says, requires “an interest in being a serious journalist reflects an interest in the world in general.” The academic culture at this institution fosters the tools necessary to produce quality work despite the absence of an official journalism program.
Student journalism is an important and active part of student life. New publications arrive with each year—just this term, Unashamed made its debut. Anna Duchon ’08 created The Lens in the 2005-2006 school and year it has since received several awards for its achievements in design and content. “I saw a niche that hadn’t been filled,” she says of her motivations to introduce the project to campus.
As a “feature driven” publication, The Lens hopes to provide its readers with content that is
“thoughtfully prepared…with an emphasis on the aesthetics of writing.” Initially, this was a challenge. Rather than adhere to the academic standards of writing, The Lens encourages a professional quality of writing with elements of personality and creativity. The final product is possible due to the talent present within the student body.
Brian Klaas ’08 is the Editor-in-Chief of Carleton’s left leaning publication, The Progressive. Like Duchon, he saw a market for a liberal piece of journalism noting that one did not exist; The Observer, a conservative leaning publication, was the only partisan piece of student journalism that existed at the time.
“I thought it would be more effective to have voices from both sides of the aisle, and articulate the left-of-center position,” Klaas said, “especially since Republicans were in control of every branch of government at the time.”
The Progressive is the recipient of two grants for its status as “one of the highest quality progressive student publications in the country” by the Center for American Progress. With this accomplishment, Klaas hopes to extend The Progressive’s campus presence by continuing its sponsorship of campus activities including film showings and speakers. “We’re also going to be directing some of our efforts towards the 2008 presidential election.
Of journalism on campus, Klaas believes “that journalism is a bit too ‘soft’ at Carleton. There are a lot of unpopular and nontransparent decisions being made by the administration and the CSA that are never criticized by our student journalists.”
Both Duchon and Klaas are examples of student innovators who find success by sustaining readership and importantly, funding.
Brandon Walker ’09 directs the news program at KRLX and explains the challenges he faces as a student journalist. “My greatest challenge at KRLX has been figuring out how to balance what the audience wants with what they need to know. Broadcast journalism has become contaminated with sensational stories that further perpetuate the demise of curiosity and intelligence among the American public. It’s really easy for us at KRLX to follow this downward trend.” His approach reflects an important standard of news production often lost in mainstream media sources. In the context of college, it is possible to avoid a “downward trend” perhaps because KRLX is exempt from some of the financial pressures faced by corporately owned radio stations.
As a student run and independently funded publication, The Carletonian also avoids some of the restrictions administered by the corporate model of journalism that has only recently become the standard. Circulation and profit are simply not the primary concerns of this publication. Instead, the challenge lies in maintaining student involvement because it is an extra curricular rather than academic commitment. Klaas shares these observations: of bi-weekly production he said, “It’s challenging…Carleton students are very busy, and some weeks we don’t have enough content by the deadline. That’s when late nights and a lot of pleading outreach with writers become necessary.”
Moving away from print and back to the broadcasting medium, “The Carleton Show” is the project of a new Cinema and Media Studies class taught by Visiting Instructor, Melody Gilbert. Members of the class produce a ten-minute show and broadcast through www.thecarletonshow.com each week. This week’s show opened with hosts Kate and Safford introducing the topic of the week, addictions at Carleton. Students and President Oden opened up about their personal obsessions. The responses covered a broad range: gummi worms, Indian food, honey, America’s Next Top Model, The Carl, Amy Lee from Evanescence and Hayden Panettiere. President Oden cites the Red Sox as his addiction and said, “If the Red Sox win, I feel better until the next game.”
In another segment, Kate interviews the Drag Queens from the recent campus Drag Show about where they buy their outfits. The interaction makes for an entertaining and informative piece.
The show finishes with an original music video submitted by an audience member. This week featured the song “Soulja Boy” set against a back drop of animated scenes from popular cartoons that respond to the lyrics of the song. The format is yet another innovative way to showcase the myriad of talents here at Carleton.
These voices and projects represent only a fraction of the journalistic activity that takes place on campus. Walker is amongst student journalists who will likely pursue journalism as a future career—he is not alone in his aspirations. Becky Zrimsk, director of Alumni Affairs, reports that approximately 1000 alumni report their occupation under the umbrella of journalism. These jobs include reporters, producers, directors, participants in the broadcasting field and editors. The interest students maintain while on campus translates into the professional realm.
Paul Caine ’08, an Editor-in-Chief of The Carl weighs in with his perception of student journalism: “The culture of journalism at Carleton is ephemeral, which is in keeping with the nature of a four year college in general. Things come and go, enthusiasms wax and wane.” Some publications and projects might have only a brief presence on campus as Caine rightly suggests. Although the preferred format might change to reflect national trends, the students at Carleton remain consistent in their commitment and passion for journalism.