Student media in Alaska and beyond

This issue and the one to follow celebrate student media at the University of Alaska and nationwide, with interviews and photos of student workers at college radio stations and newspapers. We decided to show the university more of what student media is all about. Mostly, it is about change and growing with that change.

The Northern Light is online and updated weekly for the first time this semester — a goal of mine since first coming to the newspaper. The Northern Light has gotten over 1,000 hits since Jan. 21, when our Web guru first put a counter on the site, and we're proud of that fact. Spreading the word that we're online takes time, but moving the newspaper forward into web design and more web-type writing seems to be the current salvation for newspapers.

We know that people are busy. They want a bite of news. They often want a 90-second broadcast, and when they want more information on a topic than TV or radio provides, they go to newspapers. And they want it all online.

The goals I have had for the newspaper in the nine months I have worked here are being seen now. Realizations take a great deal of time in media. It's a fast-paced business with people who have a hard time changing rapidly.

Most of our staff has been at the Northern Light for at least a semester and some over a year, either as a reporter, photographer, editor or business staff member. Whenever an editor changes, the staff often changes at least a little and, of course, students graduate (we hope).

My biggest challenge as editor has been to keep positions filled with good people with positive attitudes that can motivate staff toward growth. I don't like negative environments and I figure most other people don't either, so we try to relax, though we're always on deadline. We have fun Saturdays, though Sundays are a major stresser, since the deadline is always Sunday evening.

The best thing about working in student media is helping students who want to write. When a student has an interest in making an article clear, concise and also have flair, I feel alive in working with that student. Being the boss is an all-involving task, but working with students helps time fly.

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Unfortunately, I spend most of my time in public relations work, promoting the paper and getting the word out, as well as coordinating staff. I really would like to hire a PR person who doesn't sell ads but just promotes the paper. It's a 20-hour-a-week job right there. Even the Web Layout position was not part of the budget, but I added another position to move forward.

Time in the newspaper business is always of the essence. My problem at the paper has always been that I like to write. I also had the problem that I didn't have enough writers, especially in the summer months, but I didn't know how to recruit then, either, since I was just starting after being copy editor, and it was a major transition. Writing has always been my saving grace and my time waster. I can go through 12 hours in nothing flat by just writing. Also, I really like playing in Photoshop and can lose countless hours there.

What we're focusing on now at the Northern Light is student media in general. We want to see KRUA radio and the Northern Light as a unit, separate but serving many of the same purposes. Students should be familiar with both to be more marketable. We're working out the kinks of how that would look, but at least we're talking about it.

The biggest problems that have cropped up at the newspaper about content seem to involve food and tattoos. Enough said. But we hear people when they complain. We hear them and we digest what they say. We never portray ourselves as the only truth—just a source of information as truthful as we can be. Also, we always state that we are students. That means we are learning.

Another red flag in publication has been bias. It's something everyone walks through the world with, and good reporters don't claim to be without it. They just claim to be fair. Sometimes, we lose sight of that for what we feel is a larger purpose. That's when we need to remind ourselves just to present the facts and let the public do their own sorting.

In the Feb. 13 and Feb. 20 editions of the Northern Light are several articles about student media in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Nevada and Massachusettes. This issue, in honor of KRUA student radio's ninth birthday, is devoted to radio. We hope you enjoy learning more about student media outlets at UAA and seeing how they compare to organizations outside Alaska.