A communication professor who helped students earn bylines in a community newspaper will have his own work published in Grassroots Editor.
A journal article by Michael Ray Smith, professor of mass communication at Campbell University, is slated for publication in the fall by Grassroots Editor, a quarterly journal of the Institute of International Studies, Missouri Southern State University. Smith’s article, “Hyperlocalism and The Daily Record,” discusses the publishing strategy of local newspaperman Hoover Adams, founder of the The Daily Record of Dunn, N.C. Smith worked with publisher Bart Adams, Hoover’s son, to have students cover news that this community newspaper needed but sometimes lacked the personnel to do the hard work of newsgathering and reporting. The junior Adams assigned Smith and his students to cover community vignettes called “The Seven Questions.”
The Seven Questions
To assist The Daily Record with its community coverage, Campbell University students were required to formulate questions based on research. They were taught to use a number of sources to prepare for an interview. For instance, students were required to do what is called a Lexis/Nexis search on Campbell’s database page to learn about the topic and to determine if any other journalists wrote about the source. In addition, students use the database Associations Unlimited to find an organization related to the topic. These non-profit organizations often can suggest experts that can provide vital information or statistics that help with the background of an article. Students routinely check more ordinary Internet sites including Google.
Armed with prepared questions, a student was required to interview a subject and, if necessary, others to make the column successful. Students worked on their own to set up the interviews and take the photograph that could accompany the piece.
The project proved beneficial on several levels. The students gained valuable experience, including solving the problem of working with a reticent source and time-scheduling issues. The articles were posted on Smith’s personal web site at www.featurewriting.net and the readers profited and continue to profit from an at-a-glance profile that allows an audience to peek into another’s person life. Finally, the newspaper profited by getting high-quality content and giving university writers a chance to showcase their work with a byline. The writers also had to take publishable photographs, an additional hurdle that helped these wordsmiths prepare to successfully transition into entry-level journalism positions at community newspapers.
Smith’s work was funded, in part, through a summer research grant from the office of Dr. Dwaine Greene, vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost at Campbell University, and the office of Dr. Mark Hammond, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.