10 Things every college paper should cover…but many don’t

Note: This “post” will be in three installments. Today are the obvious, tomorrow will be the less obvious and Friday will be the often forgotten. Please comment liberally.

The Obvious

Student Government

Duh. But sometimes I don’t read a peep about the student governments in college papers. Oh, there is a reaction story if something really big happens, but that isn’t always the case. And we all know that allocating $500 so the Student Nurses Association can go to nationals doesn’t even register on the Sexy Reading Meter.

But that $500 is news. And so is SNA (or whatever) going to nationals (or whatever). Every student government meeting should have a reporter in attendance. These folks directly represent the students. What they do is important. And imagine how much worse Congress would be if there was no one watching.

Think about this opening to a story in the Northwest Missourian:

The 89th Student Senate kicked off the year with 15 empty seats and a budget cut by about 20 percent. But President Andrew Maddux is not worried.

“We actually had about two-thirds of our senators show up for the elections meeting, and we also had nine people show up who weren’t on the list of candidates before,” Maddux said. “So we actually are going to have 30 to 32 people campaigning (for 15 seats) and it’s definitely increasing.”

Elections are Sept. 12-16. Students can access the ballots through their CatPAWS account. Historically, about 11 percent of students vote for Student Senate elections. Maddux and his executive board want all of the publicity they can get, which is why Treasurer Riley Ziemer sought to maintain the Senate’s public relations budget.

There is some good information there. Sure, it isn’t as fun as an administrator getting pinched for drunk and disorderly or some such event. But it is probably more important.

One MCMA paper that does an outstanding job here is The Maneater. With that paper in hand, students can head to Shakespeare’s for a beer and read all they need to know about Mizzou’s Missouri Students Association (MSA)

If you don’t have a beat writer for this, get on it.

And this leads us to….

Faculty Senate (or other faculty governing body)

I see more gaps in this coverage than in the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense. And if you watched the Buffalo game, you know that is a lot of gaps. Why don’t most weeklies attend these meetings?

One word: boring.

I have news for you folks, reporters have to cover boring stuff. Papers have to print boring stuff. Why? Because it is important. You are a newspaper not US Weekly.

For example, new courses and proposed curricula changes must go through these bodies. That directly involves students. Often, these meetings include the most frank discussion between administrators and teaching faculty. They often let their guard down because they forget you are there.

And here is an overlooked reason to attend: That VP who won’t take your calls? Bet he is in the room. He can’t ignore you now.

Board of Trustees, Regents or Governors

These stuffy old farts and fartettes raise your tuition, set your fees, hire your presidents, enter contracts and other newsish type stuff.

So why do I have to search for the copy? Why is sending a reporter an afterthought?

Again, every major administrator is in the room as a participant or observer. It is a sourcing goldmine. But more importantly, they do some pretty major stuff at these meetings.

When I was an adviser (and a student editor), we made sure a top-notch reporter was not only at the meetings but had requested a copy of the weekly packet of documents provided to Board members. Per the Sunshine Law, an agenda is published in advance, so our reporters were prepared.

And if they go into a closed session and your reporter doesn’t hang around, you are going to get scooped. Badly.

Bottom Line

The point here is this: If you don’t cover the governmental bodies of your campus, you have abandoned your watchdog role at the most basic level. And that should NEVER happen.

Tomorrow: Some beats you probably cover, but don’t cover right. And some beats you never even thought about.

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