December 2022

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December 2022 NewsBeat 23 are otherwise ignored by larger media," said Finneman. She said the partnership also provides invalu- able experience to the students. "It's also just a great opportunity for stu- dents to understand what are the big issues facing the industry today … as well as to give them real-life experience," said Finneman. Students at the paper cover school board meetings, county commissioner meetings and community activities. She also said staffing isn't an issue like in most newsrooms. "We constantly have students — AKA work- ing journalists — come in through the system ... Hiring is one of the challenges that so many newspapers face, so we constantly have a steady stream of people coming in the door. We have the university as our office space, so we don't need to buy another building," Finneman noted. Even with these advantages, there are some bumps in the road — the student debt crisis, for example. "That plays a role, because my students are going to class all day, and then many of them work 20 to 30 hours a week in part-time jobs to deal with the debt of going to school. And then, on top of that, they are writers for the Eudora Times," said Finneman. Her team has identified several solutions to help in this regard. Industry grants, fellowships and donations are a few examples of funding solutions. "We need them to step up to help support our students so that we can create some part- time job openings for them being journalists, rather than having them work at a bar 20 to 30 hours a week and have to be a journalist on the side," said Finneman. The Eudora Times also hosts community events to gain trust in the community. For ex- ample, the paper hosts "Office Hours" at a local coffee shop to encourage news engagement and try to connect with its audience in proactive, meaningful ways. "My team does technology training with senior citizens in the community. So, we try to do that once a semester where my Gen Z team goes in and helps the senior citizens figure out how to use their phones and laptops and answer questions that they have," said Finneman. The paper also has a small social media presence. "We do know that the community is very into Facebook. And so, therefore, we put an empha- sis on Facebook; we're meeting our community where they are," said Finneman. The Eudora Times has gained national inter- est from news leaders. Finneman and her co-au- thors decided to put together a conference titled "News Desert U: Local News Matters." The event was a 24-hour conference to introduce people to this newsroom model. Topics included the state of news deserts, funding models and panels to discuss the evolving role of journalism in the modern-day landscape and gaps in local news coverage. The Scope at Northeastern University is a tem- plate for student journalism The Boston Scope at Northeastern University gives journalism students an opportunity to practice their craft in a real-world community setting. Meg Heckman, assistant professor of jour- nalism at Northeastern University, is one of the co-organizers and was a former adviser of The Scope at Northeastern University. She helped author the paper with Finneman and encour- ages news leaders to examine their newsroom models. "Your local journalism schools and journal- ism classes could be an untapped resource. If you are trying to figure out how to serve infor- mation needs and trying to find a sustainable path forward, journalism students and journal- ism educators could be reporters," said Heck- man. The Scope was initially funded by a grant from the Poynter Institute and details some of their distribution options. "All of our content is available for free. And then we also have co-publishing agreements with a number of other local news organiza- tions. So, it's pretty common for stories that students write for The Scope to be republished again for free," said Heckman. There haven't been many issues her students haven't faced. Initially, there was the challenge of gaining trust among community members and giving students the experience of reporting on real-world stories. Heckman said that they started small. "We've developed templates that allow students with very little experience to go out, conduct an interview and come back with a sto- ry that they can turn in something publishable," said Heckman. One practice Heckman and her team imple- mented to help students gain editorial experi- ence is a series called "Changemakers." Students conduct Q&A sessions with people in the Boston community, take pictures and learn to write and edit conversations. Heckman said these initial interviews sometimes grow into more significant stories later. They also don't put too much pressure on the students — leaving room for grace and under- standing. "We manage expectations. We understand that part of being a beginner and part of learn- ing is having stories that don't pan out, and that's just part of the process," said Heckman. As for reporter safety, not many issues have popped up. "During COVID, we wanted to be very respect- ful to the community. We were very cautious about following local task ordinances and al- ways giving the people we were interviewing the option of a remote interview. We were acutely aware of the power dynamic, and we just wanted to make sure when we were going into some- body else's neighborhood that we were showing respect," said Heckman. Finneman and Heckman spoke on a panel at the News U Conference called "Getting Started: The Logistics of the Day to Day." Finneman said she's excited about the information and collabo- rations that come from the symposium. "The ultimate goal was to do a lot of brain- storming together on creating the best model for this to work. Because even though a lot of the structural problems are solved, there are still other challenges," said Finneman. She also warns that this is a big undertaking for any professor. "I technically have two jobs. Right? Certainly, it's part of my job as a professor, but the num- ber of hours that I spend keeping this newspa- per running is far above and beyond what my regular job description calls for. So, how to do this and fit it into regular teaching workload is the biggest challenge," said Finneman. Heckman said she was excited to brainstorm solutions to these challenges at the conference. "If you look at the Eudora Times and The Scope at Northeastern, those are two incredibly different communities and incredibly different publications with a really similar mission. That's exciting when we can acknowledge different logistical hurdles," said Heckman. Heckman said this event is meant to be collaborative and about sharing resources. She advises anyone interested in pursuing this type of project to plug these practices into classes so that students can dedicate their academic time to meeting deadlines. Finneman said she hopes these projects can give students insight into the importance of community journalism. "There is this belief that you have to end up at The New York Times or The Kansas City Star — like big outlets — to make it in journalism. And there really isn't a train of thought among most students to work in community journal- ism," said Finneman. She suggested that introducing community journalism to students can help local journalism survive in these trying times. "After they graduate, the intent is that they will now be more familiar with this concept and the benefits it has and hopefully work in com- munity newspapers or small local media that serve smaller populations," said Finneman. Victoria Holmes is a freelance journalist and writer based out of Dallas, Texas. This article originally appeared in Editor & Publisher.

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