College student journalists from around the country now have a newly formed press organization and website to showcase their reporting.
The Student Free Press Association, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., opened its doors for membership earlier this month, offering savvy university-based reporters the chance to work on high-profile, watchdog-style stories and also post their best work online for a broader national audience.
The website, studentfreepress.net, aims to be a key online portal for the best stories coming out of universities nationwide, offering one-stop reading for campus news across America.
“We want this to be a great source for higher education news produced mainly by students,” says the association’s Executive Director John J.Miller, who plied his early reporting chops as editor of the Michigan Review in Ann Arbor, Mich., and now serves as national correspondent at the National Review.
“We want to work with everybody on campus who is interested in exposing political correctness and the inefficiencies of the modern university—the unaccountability of higher education today,” he said. “We want to take on all these topics.”
Membership in the SFPA is free, and its website is not exclusively for conservative students or right-leaning issues. Rather, says its editor Katherine Miller (no relation to John), it allows college reporters the opportunity to cover news and the types of stories that might not be overlooked or go uninvestigated by mainstream university news outlets.
“I am focused on news, getting the best reporting. The political aspect is secondary,” Ms. Miller said of gathering and reporting web content. “We want students are who interested in transparency and taking a critical look at issues. We are looking for those who are willing to ask the tough questions. A lot of people aren’t as critical as they should be and we hope to promote the good work of those who are.”
Editors at the SFPA will suggest story ideas for young writers and also aggregate the best content from student papers and media at universities around the nation, whether it be print, blogs or video. They will reach out to reporters who do good work, reposting their stories and also working with writers to create original pieces.
Although the organization has been created by journalists affiliated with conservative news outlets, it does not strive to create partisan stories, she said.
“If someone is reporting news for me, I don’t care what perspective that it’s from,” Ms. Miller said. “It’s more about getting the correct story.”
She adds: “This is a win-win situation for everyone. We’re trying to promote good work, take the edge off of some editors out there with editing and contacts. They’re getting their content in a better place.”
Mr. Miller said the SFPA will also offer paid summer internships, giving student reporters the chance to learn more about working in Washington in a competitive media environment alongside veterans. The association also helps to mentor students and help them learn to do the kind of in-depth reporting that will get them noticed in the job marketplace.
“I’ve been very involved with interns over the years, trying to help them get good clips and start careers,” he said of creating the FSPA.
“In doing this, I came to believe that there was the need for a new organization as a place to focus on campus journalists and to help identify and nurture talent when it’s young and keep these kids from going to law school.”
Students can join SFPA online. Editors at the association welcome submissions and input from campus journalism contributors nationwide.
“We hope to become a platform for excellent student journalism,” says Mr. Miller. “There are other organizations that deal with campus journalism. But we are doing something a little bit different where we are an individual membership organization, working one on one with students and allowing the opportunity to showcase their work off campus.”