Student Journalism in the Age of Mistrust

Nick Bush, managing editor emeritus of the Good Five Cent Cigar, and Lianna Blakeman, editor-in-chief.

By Nick Bush and Lianna Blakeman

Across the nation, journalism is facing significant threats. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, only 32 percent of Americans had a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media, down eight points from the previous year. As student journalists, we strive to understand and prepare ourselves for “real-world” journalism, but we must also consider the role of student journalism.

Student newspapers across the country face the threat of losing their impact and relevance to the community. In the age of mistrust, many view the reporting in university newspapers as subpar and lacking important news coverage. But, the Good Five Cent Cigar, since its inception, has held that student journalism should not only be a learning experience, but also serve the community. The Cigar is fortunate to be in a campus environment where freedom of speech is not only protected but cherished. As a result, we have been able to tackle challenging stories that you might not expect in a student newspaper.

In the first issue of the spring 2018 semester, the headline on the front page of the Cigar was, “Former URI student charged with first-degree murder.” This was an unusual story for a student newspaper to cover, and it caught students’ interest. The papers flew off the shelves, demonstrating there was reader demand for investigative articles. In response, the Cigar editorial board felt a growing need to have a dedicated team of skilled reporters to manage these types of articles. Our team of investigative reporters, Cigarlight—a play on the name of the Boston Globe Spotlight team—has tackled topics like Student Senate financial regulations and the defunding of one of URI’s largest student organizations. They spend hours listening to interviews with students, faculty, and administrators, poring over official documents, and piecing together a cohesive story that the Cigar is proud to publish.

We always work diligently toward accurate, high-quality articles, but sometimes we make mistakes. That is what makes student journalism so unique—while we are not professionals in the field, we still strive to hold ourselves up to the highest of professional standards.

Despite the risk of failing or receiving angry responses, we still choose to do bigger and harder-hitting stories. Yes, it is more difficult and time-consuming, but we believe that our role as journalists demands it. We’ve seen positive and negative responses to some of these challenging stories, but we are engaging the entire campus community and sparking dialogue on topics that matter, and that’s exactly what we, as student journalists, strive for.

The Cigar has come a long way since 1971—through many trials and tribulations, highs and lows. But what hasn’t changed is that we are still passionate reporters, and we are dedicated to taking the Cigar to new places. We hope to fully explore student journalism and, above all, provide a valuable service to the University of Rhode Island community. •

One comment

  1. Great article. It is well written and clearly states its intention. Too many articles in newspapers today include the writers opinions. They also try to be cute. It’s a waste. It should be important to remember this: Just print the facts. I appreciate your enthusiasm and hope you can hold onto it. That will show in your writing as it clearly does in this article. Thank you.

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