Name: Joey Cranney
College newspaper: The Temple News (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Where I am now: Government reporter at The Post and Courier
It’s time for the public to stop underestimating student newsrooms. Rather, they should be embraced for their opportunity to expose wrongdoing in overlooked communities.
I worked for The Temple News at Temple University, starting as a freshman sports reporter in 2010 and graduating in 2014 as the paper’s editor-in-chief. The Temple News is not just a student newspaper — it’s a century-old institution for the largest university in the country’s fifth most populated city.
At the top of the front page, the paper’s motto reads, “A watchdog for the Temple University community since 1921.” That community includes Temple students, faculty, alumni, as well as the residents of North Philadelphia.
For loyal Temple News readers, it should come as no surprise that the paper’s student journalists in recent weeks have reported extensively on concerns from those residents regarding the university’s proposal to build a football stadium in the middle of their neighborhood.
The Temple News has long highlighted local issues that otherwise might not get coverage.
During my tenure as the top editor, we reported on a track & field coach whose verbal abuse led to depression and suicidal tendencies among his athletes. We detailed the challenges that students with mental health issues face on a campus with a lack of counseling resources.
And years before the public uprising against accused rapist Bill Cosby, Temple’s most famous alum, one of our columnists called out the university for promoting Cosby’s image despite years of sexual assault allegations.
Most notably, on our editorial page, we aggressively criticized the university’s most powerful officials, Temple’s Board of Trustees, and exposed the cloak of secrecy they often hide behind.
We were amateurs, but indisputably, this was journalism. And like all good local journalism, it was emboldened by a desire to improve the community where we lived and worked.
To be sure, The Temple News benefited from a certain degree of privilege. A well-functioning advertising department funded our operations. That kept us independent from the university and kept administrators from pressuring us (for the most part) when we wrote something they didn’t like.
Most of the paper’s editors were paid a small weekly salary. Reporters were paid $10 per article.
Many student newsrooms aren’t as lucky. In the worst cases, they’re cutting staff, trimming content or facing threats from university leadership.
If your alma mater has a student newspaper that’s in danger of folding, you shouldn’t consider the issue as a potential loss for the university’s journalism program. You should consider it a loss for you and your community.