When she arrived at The New School three years ago, New School Free Press advisor Heather Chaplin was looking to build a different kind of journalism program. Having worked for years in the industry, she saw firsthand how quickly the media landscape was changing. So she teamed up with the publication’s student reporters and editors to transform the New School Free Press from a biweekly print newspaper without a website into a full-blown multimedia publication. At the start of the semester, the Free Press staff was web publishing timely news pieces, and saving longer feature pieces for the print publication. They were now ready to report on breaking news, little did they know how soon that opportunity would come.
As members of Occupy Wall Street moved from the streets to the New School campus last month, the reporters sprung into action. The Free Press team reported and published around the clock for nearly two weeks, forgoing Thanksgiving break to report on the occupation as it unfolded on our campus. Over the course of the story, the student editors tested the limits of their print-to-web transition: sending reporters out to canvass the city for news, live-reporting developments on Twitter, posting substantiated reports to the new blog-style Free Press home page, and saving in-depth feature reporting for the newspaper’s upcoming print issue. We decided Occupy Wall Street would be the Free Press’s springboard into the 21st century. The idea of making the transition to web has been something that’s been floating around the editorial meetings for some time now.,
While the new model was exciting for students, it also served the Free Press‘s mission. A newspaper, whatever it is these days, is a community service. You try to provide people with information they need,, said Chaplin. This responsibility to the community became the student editors’ guiding principle over the course of the protests. The story really mobilized everyone,, said editor in chief Miles Kohrman, a sophomore at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. On that first day of action, November 17, we put ten reporters out into the city and said, ‘Send us all you’ve got.’,
What they got was traffic, a lot of it. Through the live-blogging service storify, which they used to feed the temporary breaking news homepage, the Free Press received more than 10,000 hits, and the Twitter feed audience doubled overnight. The Free Press also found a whole new audience, veteran journalists who were looking to place the student movement into a broader context. Like a good beat reporter, the Free Press had the knowledge of the university’s culture and the established relationships with students and administrators to get their reporting done more quickly, and at times better, than the pros. The Free Press’ reporting was quoted or otherwise cited in much of the local coverage, including outlets like the New York Times website, CBS and Gothamist. Aidan Gardiner, a recent Lang alumnus and former Free Press news editor, even reported on the occupation for the Times’ City Room blog. For Chaplin, this response confirmed what she already suspected. There’s a place for student journalism in the larger journalism world,, she said.
The Journalism program at Lang continues to develop, with discussions of joint courses with Communication Design at Parsons. But for the students, the experience of reporting on breaking news was invaluable in itself. We all want to be journalists, so this was an amazing learning experience,, said Opinions editor Kim Lightbody, a Lang senior. We were actually a part of the conversation.,