Faculty, students welcome new student publication

Some fees committee members hoped funding The Wake would encourage innovation in campus news coverage.

Lee Billings

Opportunities at the University for student journalists are growing, thanks in part to the Student Services Fees Committee and School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

After extensive debate, the fees committee in March approved $60,000 of student fees money to sponsor The Wake, a free, independent monthly publication produced by and for University students.

The Journalism School partially supported the volunteer-run publication with lab time and funding last year. The Wake registered as a student group last fall and published its first regular issue Sept. 3.

Faculty and students said they welcome the increased diversity and opportunity that another student publication offers the University.

“The Wake provides longer-form coverage of the arts and stories with a different frame than the daily news beat that The Minnesota Daily covers,” said professor Al Tims, the Journalism School director. “To me it’s a very healthy thing, and I’m pleased the fees committee has given them a chance to bring this thing to life.”

University senior Dan Mirocha, The Wake’s sports editor, said his experience at The Wake helped him get an internship at KARE-TV and a summer job at a California-based golf magazine.

“The Wake has been a great opportunity for a lot of journalists or writers to show what they can do, a lot of people who won’t get hired at the Daily,” Mirocha said. “It’s hard to get clips before you go into the real world, and I think we’re going to be a necessary publication for the ‘U.’ “

The Wake co-founder James Delong, a University senior, said the magazine is not competing with the school’s daily newspaper.

“I’ve just seen support between the two – the two can support each other and support the students, and that’s the main thing I’d like to see happen next year: two student publications jointly providing students with news, entertainment and info,” he said.

Twin Cities newspaper editors said more than one student publication means good things for readers and aspiring journalists.

“The more avenues you have for people to write and get experience Ö just adds to your experience, so when you start looking for a job you have more to draw on and more clips to show,” said Vicki Gowler, senior vice president and editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“My assumption is that the more places students can go to practice and develop some skills, it’s going to be helpful, particularly if it’s a different kind of publication,” said Anders Gyllenhaal, editor of the Star Tribune.

Students at other Big Ten schools are familiar with multiple publications. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Badger Herald and the Daily Cardinal, both student papers, have competed for campus readership since 1969.

“One of the most beneficial things about a competitor is it gives us real-world experience – the competition is real, and you always have to worry about being scooped and having the most accurate news,” said Kristin Johnson, managing editor of the Daily Cardinal.

Heidi Olson, the Badger Herald’s managing editor, said both papers “thrive” on each other and collectively give students more chances to build their portfolios.

“Competition in any market always makes news quality better and makes everyone in the office work harder,” Olson said. “I feel like a lot of universities that don’t have competition in their student newspapers are missing out because the staff doesn’t work as hard to be the best.”

Improving campus news coverage was a reason The Wake received funding, said senior David Zaffrann, a fees committee member.

“Some of the people on the committee were hopeful that in funding The Wake and keeping the Daily static for one year, it might push innovation in ways of covering news on campus, covering different topics,” Zaffrann said. “Since we knew on the part of The Wake that was going to happen, as that was the whole reason for their funding request, some of us were hoping that would also prompt the Daily to re-examine its own campus news coverage.”

Lee Billings covers faculty and staff affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]