College Reporters Keep Local News Alive | God's World News

College Reporters Keep Local News Alive

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    Executive Editor Sabine Martin, right, passes a drafted paper to Managing Editor Parker Jones in the newsroom of The Daily Iowan in Iowa City, Iowa. (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan via AP)
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    Editors talk in The Daily Iowan newsroom. (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan via AP)
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    A designer puts a page together in the newsroom. (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan via AP)
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    Executive Editor Sabine Martin at work on The Daily Iowan (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan via AP)
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    Sports Editor Kenna Roering works with sports reporters. (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan via AP)
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Daily and even weekly newspapers are disappearing. The loss leaves many Americans stranded in so-called “news deserts” with little access to local news. Relief may come—from college students.

News informs the ground level of democracy. A news desert is any community with limited access to complete and trustworthy news. Without reliable news, citizens of a news desert are challenged when attempting to make informed decisions.

Of course, there is only one infallible source for truth. Wise newsreaders compare every report against God’s word. (John 17:17)

Zach Metzger is director of the State of Local News Project. The group analyzes journalism in America. Metzger says the country has lost about 70% of newsroom jobs and one-third of all newspapers since 2005.

A blow to print media came when big tech and social media began gobbling up advertising dollars. Small-town newspapers are suffering.

If small papers die, who’ll cover events like Sauerkraut Days or an American Legion card shower? (Yep, actual Iowa events.)

It’s a University of Iowa student paper to the rescue! The Daily Iowan is buying two struggling weeklies: the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun and the Solon Economist.

The takeover move isn’t new. A handful of college papers already cover local news.

“There’s lots of examples of programs stepping in because the local media . . . doesn’t exist in the way it once did,” says University of Vermont professor Richard Watts. His school feeds student stories to large news outlets.

In Iowa, student-journalists will work alongside the two tiny papers’ existing reporting staffs. Students will help gather news in the small cities of Mount Vernon, Lisbon, and Solon.

“It’s a really great way to help the problem of news deserts in rural areas,” says Sabine Martin. She is executive editor of The Daily Iowan.

Bob Woodward, owner of the two weeklies, says they “weren’t performing very well.” He wondered how to salvage—not shutter—the papers. So he proposed the buyout.

Woodward heard that journalism students at the University of Kansas run an online news site for a nearby town that lost its newspaper. He also knew University of Georgia student reporters saved a 148-year-old weekly, The Oglethorpe Echo.

At the University of Oregon, students helped the Eugene Weekly recover from a fraud scheme in 2023. The students even helped break a story that led to the ouster of a local leader, says journalism professor Peter Laufer.

Nathan Countryman, editor at the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun, is eager for help covering meetings, graduations, and beloved area happenings—like Sauerkraut Days. And the presses keep rolling.

Why? Since news is important for democracy, reliable local news is important—and finding ways to keep news flowing is too!

For more about journalism and newspapers, see The Landry News by Andrew Clements in our Recommended Reading. 

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