If you’re thinking about majoring in journalism or a related subject in college, working on your school’s newspaper can be an excellent way to begin earning your chops. Far from child’s play, many college newspapers are known for churning out serious stories by seriously talented writers, with accompanying images by seriously talented photographers.
Working for a college newspaper certainly poses challenges: it’s not always easy to meet deadlines when you’re taking a full course load, and you may feel completely sapped of creative energy when, for example, you have a research paper due on the same day your editor-in-chief wants a 750-word profile on a prominent alumna—who of course only has time for your phone interview during the 15 minutes you have to eat lunch between English comp and poli sci.
In the end, though, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
A college newspaper offers budding journalists a chance to gain some hands-on experience in an environment that acts as a scaled-down model of a major daily newspaper (and some of them aren't even all that scaled-down). You’ll be able to start shoring up by-lines and a portfolio of work that you can show to prospective employers. You’ll learn to meet deadlines while producing quality content. You’ll learn far more about journalism as a profession than you can learn in the classroom alone. And you’ll make lifelong friends and build an invaluable network that will continue to serve you long after you’ve graduated.
If you consider the AP Stylebook a sacred text and you love the thrill of chasing down a lead like a jungle cat going after its prey, read on to learn about some of today’s most influential college newspapers.
1. University of Wisconsin – Madison: The Daily Cardinal
First published in 1892, The Daily Cardinal is the sixth oldest student newspaper in the country. Financially and editorially independent from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the Cardinal’s student journalists are able to tackle hard-hitting topics that affect student life, as well as subjects of national and political importance.
2. La Salle University: The Collegian
The Collegian has been the on-campus newspaper of La Salle University since 1931, and its gutsy student reporters aren’t afraid to push the envelope. A few years ago, the school asked the newspaper’s staff to refrain from placing an embarrassing story about a business professor above the fold. In a facetious and daring act of compliance, the paper left the top of the front page blank and placed the story below the fold.
3. Columbia University: The Blue and White
Though it’s technically a magazine rather than a newspaper, The Blue and White provides Columbia University’s student journalists with ample opportunities to hone their editorial skills. First published in 1890, the magazine disbanded in 1893 and was reestablished in 1998. Today, The Blue and White boasts a sizable coterie of writers and contributors who churn out some impressively high-caliber journalism month after month.
Fun fact: the staff of The Blue and White meets in the crypt of St. Paul’s Chapel on the school’s campus. How cool is that?
4. University of California – Los Angeles: The Daily Bruin
UCLA’s student journalists crank out the Daily Bruin five days a week during the academic year (though they cut it down to twice a week during finals). This robust student newspaper covers everything from student government to sports to arts and entertainment—and everything in between. There’s even a classifieds section where students can search for housing and employment opportunities.
5. The Ohio State University: The Lantern
The Lantern is The Ohio State University’s daily student newspaper and, with a circulation of more than 15,000, it’s one of the country’s largest campus newspapers. Founded in 1881, The Lantern is available both on campus and throughout Columbus—a testament to the phenomenal journalism its students are producing. Most notably, in 2011, the paper printed a story exposing members of the school’s football team who had broken NCAA rules by selling team memorabilia.
6. The University of Texas at Austin: The Daily Texan
Founded in 1900, The Daily Texan is a student-run newspaper that is editorially independent from UT. Walter Cronkite, Dan Malone, and Lady Bird Johnson are a few of the notable UT alumni who worked for the perennially award-winning paper. Bonus: many of the paper’s staff positions are either paid or come with a stipend.
On a related note, student journalists with a sense of humor can also consider writing for the Texas Travesty, UT’s Onion-esque satirical newspaper (and the largest one of its kind in the country).
7. University of Denver: The Clarion
First published in 1892, The Clarion is the University of Denver’s weekly student-run newspaper. Stories cover university, local, and national news, and the paper is open to contributors of all years and majors. Historically, The Clarion’s staff has been unafraid of covering controversial topics, particularly in its opinion section, where student journalists both savor and test the limits of their freedom of speech.
8. University of Maryland, College Park: The Diamondback
The Diamondback was founded in 1909 and is an independent, student-run newspaper at the University of Maryland, College Park. It is published five days a week during the academic year, in print Monday through Thursday and online on Fridays. The Diamondback has a history of giving student journalists a voice. In 1971, the school’s Board of Regents censored the paper’s coverage of the Vietnam War. In protest, the newspaper published blank pages and featured tombstones on the editorial pages. The Board of Regents subsequently cut off the paper’s funding, and Maryland Media, Inc. was established to keep The Diamondback going. Today it is financially and editorially independent of the school, and many former staff members have gone on to work for national papers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
9. University of Kansas: The University Daily Kansan
Founded in 1904, The University Daily Kansan is another editorially and financially independent student newspaper. It is published daily during the academic year and is distributed exclusively on the University of Kansas campus. The paper has won numerous awards, including several from the Associated Collegiate Press.
10. Syracuse University: The Daily Orange
The Daily Orange is Syracuse University’s independent student newspaper. It is generally published Monday through Thursday, and it has a circulation of 6,000, a print readership of 20,000, and an online circulation of 28,000. Stories cover university and national news, arts and entertainment, college athletics, and other topics of interest to the student body. The Daily Orange has garnered many prestigious awards over the years, and former staff members have gone on to work for numerous major newspapers and news outlets, including the Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, Yahoo!, and The New York Times.
Think you’ve got what it takes to become the next Woodward or Bernstein? Check out this list of Schools for the Intrepid Reporter.