By Julia Swain
From how to tell an effective, engaging story to the importance of building relationships with sources and generating community-oriented story ideas, the student media conference at Xavier University on September 30 provided a great deal of inspiration for the editor team at Cedars, Cedarville University’s student-organized newspaper. The conference highlighted eight student news organizations’ best work, included three breakout sessions, and a keynote address from Evan Millward and Kristen Swilley, WCPO-TV (Cincinnati) anchors.
The conference began with the “Best of Student Media” with each represented university choosing one story that the organization was particularly proud of that had been produced within the last year. Cedars, Cedarville University’s student-run newspaper, decided on “Cedarville students sense a spiritual awakening,” an article co-written by Editor-In-Chief Maggie Fipps and Sports Editor Alan Brads. Fipps introduced the article as representing the university’s “craziest twenty-four hour span in school history” as a stabbing, protest, and revival sent the school into a frenzy. Both Fipps and Brads were “proud of how they covered the story,” and how quickly they “jumped at the opportunity to produce such relevant content for the student body.”
Students then moved to breakout sessions moderated by faculty advisors that discussed specific aspects of student journalism. Professionals in the field from the Cincinnati area were invited to speak on the subjects, which ranged from social media to multiplatform journalism, to how to take advantage of digital platforms.
Avonlea Brown, On-Campus News Editor for Cedars, spoke on the inspiration she gained from these breakout sessions.
“[I learned that] I need to invest more time in developing a strong foundation that campus news can then build off of,” Brown said. “Hearing all of the other editors talking about how they communicate and hear about news on campus inspired me and challenged my comfort levels about Campus news. I want to write stories that I know are important to the student body.”
Following the morning breakout sessions, students and advisors gathered back in the conference room for the keynote address from Millward and Swilley, who shared advice and experiences from their long and successful careers in broadcast journalism. They highlighted some of their most impactful stories, such as Swilley’s story on Florida A&M’s (her alma mater) hazing tragedy, or Millward’s telling of Westwood daycare that had all of their money stolen.
They also answered students’ questions and offered advice on how to gain meaningful experience in the field.
After lunch, students went into their final breakout session of the day, where Josie Schmidt-Krayer, Multimedia Editor for Cedars, said she gained her largest amount of inspiration.
“My biggest takeaway [from the multiplatform reporting session] was how to be more interactive online,” Schmidt-Krayer said. “It helped me to understand there are ways to market an article and the news you have. For future work for Cedars I want to have posts that are more interactive, and a lot of the sessions I attended were definitely geared towards that.”
The final group session was arguably the most influential for the Cedars editor team as a whole. The session highlighted student media challenges, and to many students’ surprise, the challenges were eerily similar. From staff recruitment to censorship to student interest, almost all of the eight papers that were represented shared both concerns and advice on how to counteract those issues.
Schmidt-Krayer was especially encouraged by the idea that papers with larger staffs, a more interested student body, or more funding were having similar problems to Cedars.
“I really enjoyed meeting other like minded people,” Schmidt-Krayer said. “I enjoyed meeting people in a really similar position as we are and just hearing about their successes and their struggles. It was great exchanging ideas.”
Overall, the conference was a resounding success for Cedars, and for the entirety of the hour-long drive back to school, students talked about ideas that they had for the future of the publication.
“The conference made me rethink the types of stories I want to do,” Brown said. “I want breaking news and events covered more. It definitely encouraged me to continue to develop relationships and sources on campus. I also thought about what was said about social media use and am thinking about incorporating it into my approach.”
The newest edition of the Cedars magazine will be released after Thanksgiving break and will be available at various locations across campus.Julia Swain is a sophomore journalism student and the co on-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys listening to Taylor Swift, watching any Cleveland sports team, and hanging out with friends in her free time.