THE BLOG
06/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Memo to MSM -- Pay Attention To College Journalists

Hey, journalism industry: pay attention to us.

Listen to us if you want to know to know how to save your jobs. You professional journalists are a lot of talk, whining and complaining about the demise of your industry. You are all missing the answer in front of your faces: turn to the college newspapers and on-campus magazines. College journalists, more so than any other enterprising bunch of reporters, have got the future of journalism figured out.

We don't get enough opportunities to prove it though. By opening up administration officials to our questioning, HuffPost College and WhiteHouse.gov gave us that chance, to lend credibility to both our readers and our publications. We could prove ourselves capable of engaging with our readers. It wasn't hard to find people wanting to ask questions about higher education policy; what was hard was limiting the scope of questioning. More so than any other demographic, college students are directly impacted with each government decision.

When states go bankrupt, public universities are affected. When America is fighting a war on two fronts, it is the 20-24 year old demographic that makes up the largest percentage of enlisted soldiers. Young adults ages 19-29 accounted for 30 percent of the uninsured non-elderly population until the health care reform bill passed a few weeks ago. And yet, very few organizations cover higher education and the college communities consistently, even though more people are going to college every year. College journalism fills that void. We write about large scale issues on a micro level -- exactly what hyper-local journalism should do.

But it's more than just what we cover: college journalism matters because of the way we function. We have a direct line to our readers that no other type of publication has. Just look at the HuffPost contest -- North by Northwestern was able to solicit for questions, get videos made and mobilize the troops to vote to bring our publication to victory. We wouldn't be able to have done that without reaching our readers directly, on their level. In part, that's because our readers are more than just abstract numbers -- they're our peers and our friends.

Our publications are the ones enacting what newspaper editors talk in abstract about: we are the future of journalism. We are having conversations with our readers by treating them like partners in the story-telling process. We use video, photos, interactive components and compelling stories to attract an audience may not need us but sure does want us. NBN is anything but static -- our stories change and progress not just in content but in method. We use tools like polls, voting and interactive flash media to encourage readers to participate in the act of telling the story.

Our coverage isn't dictated by advertising or our traffic numbers. Instead, we become part of campus conversation as we cover what people talk about between classes and over Twitter. Our story budgets are driven by what we want to know and what our friends are talking about. No other type of publication gets that kind of freedom.

Ultimately, we're doing it the right way. Publications like North by Northwestern and NYU Local have found a balance between reporting, commentary and conversation. We don't struggle for relevancy like many mainstream media outlets; we have built-in audiences and don't have to fight for readers' attention. We serve an audience that lives and breathes the 24-hour news cycle. They don't sleep and neither do we.

So listen to us, the college publications. Don't ignore the importance of our readers or our methods -- we are what you will become.