Shannon Philpott-Sanders

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching, Parenting

Five Things Every Student Journalist Should Do … Now

reporter_thumbStudent journalists are busy people. Beyond tending to class work, outside jobs, and attempting to have somewhat of a social life, they spend their days brainstorming story ideas, writing stories, gathering video and photos, laying out pages, and managing ethical dilemmas. 

They work tirelessly to produce fair, accurate, and balanced coverage of campus communities while also trying to inform and entertain readers. As the college media adviser for The Montage, my job is to provide the resources and training needed, guide and counsel students, and even serve as a sounding board when the pressure is leading to burnout.

I firmly stress organization and planning, but as a journalist myself, I know that even the best-laid plans falter and even fail in an environment where deadlines dictate. However, I have compiled a list of tasks that should help student journalists avoid future headaches by planning, preparing, and learning the tools that will help them achieve success now and in the future.

  1.  Take a Walk Around Campus Once A Day: This is not merely a plug for exercise to rejuvenate your creativity – although it will – it is an exercise to build your story base. Walk through the hallways, quad areas, and department offices and you’ll find hundreds of ideas for your campus newspaper. Make a point to talk to people on campus, observe changes to the campus structure (construction, cluttered restrooms, etc.), and the attitude of students, faculty, and staff. Tension will more than likely lead you to a story.
  2. Set up a Google Reader Account with Automated Alerts: Even though it seems like there is never enough hours in the day, it is absolutely necessary for student journalists to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Setting up a Google Reader account will reduce the time needed to search the web for story ideas and campus news. For example, if you set up a Google Alert  to pinpoint any news related to the campus (newspaper articles, studies, press releases), the story ideas come to you as they are published on the web.
  3. Create a Family Environment in the Newsroom: Sometimes the hustle and bustle of reporting, designing, and writing causes students to overlook the “sensitive” nature of the business. Seasoned staffers know the process and have formed thicker skin; however, new staffers are often intimidated and scared away by the coldness of some newsrooms. First and foremost, your staffers must be prepared and comfortable. It is so important to create an atmosphere that is constructive, yet friendly. Organize get-to-know-you gatherings, make sure that everyone is vocal and active during staff meetings, and be open to new ideas from new members at all times. You’ll not only develop friendships, but you’ll retain committed staffers as well.
  4. Create a Blog/Website: Not only will a blog provide student journalists with exposure and a digital portfolio to market to potential employers, it also provides a forum to discuss campus issues with your readers. For example, if a student reporter is working on a story about a proposed campus ban, blog readers can weigh in, provide alternative viewpoints, and offer valuable opinions that can lead to sources and a much more balanced article.
  5. Utilize Social Media: Not only will social media platforms, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and FriendFeed help you get to know fellow students and staffers, it will also lead you to story ideas, sources, and campus-related information. Embrace and learn new technologies – unfortunately, without this knowledge, your chances of employment in the industry are slim to none.

Although these are simple strategies, you’ll be surprised by how much these tactics may simplify your life as a student journalist.

Have additional strategies that have worked in your college newsroom? Please post them in the comment box.


– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Aug. 5, 2009

 © Shannon Philpott, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


August 5, 2009 - Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , ,


  1. Apologize for my bad english, I deem its a nice vent one’s spleen of your writing. Kind-heartedly I obtain faced alot of difficulties in this condition but your article determination definately help me in future. Hold responsible You

    Comment by Debt | September 3, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] #5: Five Things Every Student Journalist Should Do […]

    Pingback by Top 10 Blog Posts of 2009 « Shannon Philpott | December 30, 2009 | Reply

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