Writing for College Students

By Sam Flynn on October 22, 2012

It has always been a subject of fascination for me how journalism is practiced in college. I don’t mean how it’s taught in classrooms even, though that is a whole other bone of contention. It’s as if the students feel an intense need to conform to journalism tropes that may or may not be suitable for their audience: 18-24 year old college students.

College is a microcosm of how the world works. It is the last place of safety nets for idealistic, aspiring journalists before they are plunged into the depths of a constantly shifting media sea. The people consuming news are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet; to have had a cellphone for the majority of their lives; to have been able to disseminate information without needing large outlets. And funnily enough, those people are the same ones attempting to mimic the old forms. The best guess I have for it is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But trust me, it needs fixing.

Take many of the publications around Ohio University. Our daily paper, the Post, admirably still prints 5 days a week. I am proud to say that they are helping in keeping print alive, even while outlets such as Newsweek go entirely digital. However, they cling to the ways of doing news in the “real” world.

Now I am not taking any of the multiple publications to task for preparing students for the job market by emulating the basic style of mainstream newspapers and magazines. But I feel like it’s important to note that one of the main reasons that print and traditional media are being folded into new media is because of exactly that problem: the audience has changed.

From flikr, by NS Newsflash

Often times when perusing on-campus papers and magazines (of which there are many as you could imagine at one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country), they, generally speaking, cover issues that are covered like something out of Newsweek only instead of unrest in the Middle-East or the Grecian economic collapse, it concerns most expensive parking on campus and changes in university policy.

College students want to read about what interests them. And while the above examples are as close as a student publication can get to covering hard news relevant to them, it is NOT want they want to read.  It’s a reality that everyone writer has to deal with that no matter how good the writing is, unless it attracts eyeballs and hooks their interest, it isn’t going to be read.

Also, I’m not saying that this is true of every college student. There are plenty of students, including myself, who are active in political or social movements and affairs. I would go so far to say that college is the place with the most active citizens because of our shared idealism and inspiration. However, it needs to be understood that the average person is not that kind of person. And if you need proof, look at the election turnouts. It’s also important to note that the following subjects apply also to the active citizens and not-so-active citizens.

College students want to read about sex, shortcuts to better parking, lower costs, better housing. They want to read about funny collegiate anecdotes of non-harmful possibly illegal shenanigans. They want to read about what ACTUALLY goes on in their lives, the struggle to accomplish their workloads, easier ways to get As in classes, what are the best places to socialize. Journalism on a college campus should be about facilitating the audience. That is where the supply meets the demand.

Now I turn the question to you. Am I wrong? Am I right? If I’m wrong, what do you actually want to be written about and what do you want to read? Thoughts!

By Sam Flynn

Uloop Writer
It takes a real asshole to sum themselves up in a few words. So I will. I am a sophomore journalism student at Ohio University with a minor in creative writing. I am copy editor at the InterActivist magazine, secretary for Theta Chi fraternity, and columnist for Rascal magazine. I love books, film, tattoos, MMA, motorcycles, rapping, and blazers. My idols are George Carlin, Kevin Smith, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, and Hunter S. Thompson. I am also now officially an asshole. Cheers!

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