Media School sponsors reporters to help fill local news gap
Thanks to junior Ty Vinson and sophomore Joey Bowling, more Bloomington residents know that their overdue library fees are being waived. They’re informed on the city council’s proposed legislation to curb predatory towing. They’re aware of the installation of syringe disposal boxes in three city parks.
The Indiana Daily Student newspaper expanded its city coverage this semester with financial support from The Media School. The school funds the two part-time city reporter positions for the otherwise financially self-sufficient publication at $10.15/hour.
There are 25 percent fewer reporters in the U.S. than there were 10 years ago, according to a Pew Research Center report. As newsrooms shrink, The Media School is helping fill the gap by supporting local journalists at two community news outlets: the IDS and the Indiana Environmental Reporter.
“(Local journalism is) an important community service to provide,” said Media School dean James Shanahan. “There were examples in the IDS last year where they did important coverage of the elections, that got a real impact.”
Both news outlets are editorially independent of the university.
Indiana Daily Student
The IDS is IU’s newspaper, but Shanahan saw its lack of subscription fees and a paywall as an opportunity for a public service to the broader community.
The news organization has long covered city news, but the funding of the two dedicated positions places a new priority on the beat. Vinson and Bowling cover education, transportation, city council, courthouse meetings, politics and events around the community.
“It’s a big position to fill,” Vinson said.
The reporters are competing with professional journalists to cover real-life stories that impact the community.
“It’s a great experience for students that want to have that on their resumes,” Shanahan said. “(Students are) covering more than just campus issues, but community issues as well.”
Shanahan said the school will support the positions next year as well.
Indiana Environmental Reporter
IER reporters Beth Edwards and Enrique Saenz have a lofty goal: to report an environmental story local to each of the 92 counties in Indiana.
They’ve hit 30 so far.
They include the stories of an organic farmer who survived Chernobyl, but then bought coal ash-contaminated land in Porter County; the closure of a Putnam County ethanol bioprocessing facility that said an increase in EPA waivers are to blame; and an Elkhart County mayor who is trying to protect his town from a recurrence of devastating flooding it experienced two years ago.
Launched two years ago, IER is an online publication — located in the sub-basement of Franklin Hall — dedicated to reporting on environmental issues affecting Indiana. Its stories are available to media outlets throughout the state for free.
It’s supported by The Media School and IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute — of which Shanahan is the associate director — and was created to increase the quantity of environmental reporting in Indiana. With its establishment, the number of full-time environmental journalists in Indiana doubled.
Edwards said the site plays an important role in telling complicated stories and creating awareness.
“I think most citizens believe Indiana is a relatively healthy place, when it isn’t,” Edwards said. “It’s our job to educate people – let them know what’s happening so they can decide if they need to make changes, gather more information (or) speak to officials about these issues.”