Student Media: What You Need to Know

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Illustration of Student Media Activities by Salsabila Tsuraya

What are Student Media?

In short, student media are similar to commercial media (like Rappler, BBC), but they are run by students. 

What Do Student Journalists Do?

Instead of hanging out with her friends, on Friday night she walks into a radio production room. She greets her colleagues and calls two announcers to brief them about the content for that day’s broadcast. She ensures, they understand completely and gives them some additional point outs. She checks on the music playlist one last time before she gives the mark to start the broadcast. She stays in the production room to watch over the broadcast until it ends. Those are what Melissa Octavianti does as a program’s producer for her university radio station, UMN Radio.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Editor in Chief of The LaSallian, Wilhelm Tan says, his work involves overseeing the organization’s three writing sections—News, Features, and Sports. He covers sports games, live-tweets the results, writes recaps of games, and makes features on notable players and teams. He also interviews the university administration staffs and the student councils to produce news pieces on various notable issues.

“We also try to cover national events if it’s relevant with the university, such as students attending rallies that fight for national topics, like the rally against the burial of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes),” he says.

Some of Tan’s jobs are similar to what Mila Rosalia does. As the Director of Ahmad Dahlan University Television, Rosalia usually searches for news within her university and local news from hot local issues around university. “Of course it involves interviewing many people as the sources, including government officials,” she says.

Being a student journalist also means you could get the chance to do what non-student journalists couldn’t. Ajeng Meisinta, a staff of Budi Luhur Television in Indonesia says that she would never forget the moments when she interviewed Kobe Steel, Ltd.’s Chairman, President and CEO Hiroya Kawasaki from Japan.

Meanwhile, Tan got to cover Pope Francis part of Apostolic Journey in the Philippines in 2015. He worked with a small team led by then-Editor in Chief Ronaldo Manzano and they were able to apply for media passes to cover the event.

“We were able to attend some of the events and live-tweeted Pope Francis’ different messages and speeches, as well as write articles about the ceremony. We also uploaded photos taken by the team’s photographers. It was a very stressful few days, but also some of the most memorable and fulfilling,” shares Tan.

Why should we care

According to Student Press Law Center (SPLC), “Journalism is a portal through which young people first become engaged in the life of the community, whether as journalists or as audience members.”

Being a student journalist helps you understand how government agencies work (civic literacy) as well as how to gather information and communicate it effectively. Possessing journalistic skills and knowing its values will also prevent people from spreading online hate speeches.

What they learn

SPLC states that journalism trains young people to verify their facts, signs their names to what they write, corrects their mistakes, takes account of opposing points of view, and understands the dangers of publishing false accusations. These are foundational skills that every student with Internet access needs, not just those working in newsrooms.

Meanwhile, Tan says, “Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that there is always an underlying story, and that it is our duty to find it. (…) Most times, though, it is these hidden stories that are not as obvious that turn out to be the ones that are truly interesting, and that the community wants to know about. I believe it is our job to find these stories, for better or worse, and share them to the readers.”

Another important lesson one could learn by being student journalist, according to Mila, is to present critical and independent news all the time, and be responsible to everything that needs to be done in the process.

Student Media Rights and Responsibilities

Award winning student journalist, James Beeson, wrote that the purpose of student media is neither to protect the image the school nor to be its mouthpiece.

“Student publications (…) have a duty to report on and investigate matters of student interest. If the Guild or University are acting in a manner which might jeopardize or otherwise reduce student wellbeing, then it is the role of student media to bring that to the attention of the university population. Just as it is the role of national media to hold politicians and public figures to account, the role of student media is to hold representatives of the university to account,” says Beeson.

All illustrations by Salsabila Tsuraya

Cases

“Some school officials discourage student reporters from asking difficult questions or raising controversial issues. In fact, student journalism of this kind should be encouraged. Student newspapers often lead the media to important education stories,” stated the 2009 Brookings Institution report.

Agung shares, “Even discussion forums are banned by universities nowadays. Campus should be a place where students can express various perspectives, but in reality diverse point of views have become a rarity in academic communities.”

Nevertheless They are Persistent

Being a student journalist has a lot of challenges and might also cause stress.

Tan shared that his position as Editor in Chief puts him in heavy mental stress because he needs to be online most of the time to coordinate different events and outputs, especially when several events are occurring at once. He also finds it hard to balance social or academic responsibilities and media responsibilities, for the work of media cannot be delayed. Tan says that he doesn’t plan to be a professional journalist, because he is planning to pursue a career in his majors, Financial Economics or Accountancy.

Time management is also a problem for Ajeng, as she has experienced a scheduling conflict: she has to attend a class at the same time as an interview appointment. However, Ajeng said that working as a student journalist is fun. She loves how she could meet new people every day, so she will pursue a career in journalism after she graduates.

Mila says similar thing with Ajeng. Her experience as a student journalist ensures that journalism is her passion and many people support her plan. That is why she will also pursue a career in journalism.

Meanwhile, freelance journalist Pennanen says, “In my opinion journalism is more needed than ever in this rapidly changing discussion environment, where for example free press is being attacked by various actors. So I will become a professional journalist, and furthermore I hope that in the future (and of course this very moment as well) I can be proud of my work.”

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