Student journalists with The Independent, the College’s student news organization, dive into a real newsroom atmosphere and experience deadlines, story assignments, and breaking news like any major news organization does. The purpose behind The Indy goes beyond reporting the news, though, to offer students professional journalism and publishing experience as undergraduates in a constantly evolving field.
“We’re here to teach people,” editor-in-chief Alex Semadeni, a senior Journalism & Multimedia Studies major, says. “You can get someone with no experience and then they find a way to fit in and can start thinking about making a career out of journalism.”
Semandeni oversees five departments—design, reporting, photography, IndyTV, and business—and a staff of about twenty students from various majors. The Independent staff ranges in experience from complete beginners to veterans of the organization.
This student-organized and student-led newspaper not only serves as a credit fulfillment for some Journalism & Multimedia Studies majors, but also gets students in other fields involved and excited in a variety of news organization roles. That’s because The Independent serves students both as a practicum class and as a registered student organization. Students therefore have the flexibility to join even if they can’t fit the class into their schedule. While the class meets once a week, much of the real-world experience that students do comes outside the practicum hours.
It’s through this campus reporting that students get to learn the ins and outs of journalism. Faced with four print deadlines a semester and a demand for real-time online news, staffers under Semadeni are learning how to adapt in a changing industry. “The in-class session is where we do our planning, but we’re also a practicum. We go out there with the basics and our guidelines and we go out and learn how to report,” Semadeni says.
Any person working in an unpredictable industry such as journalism will face battles. However, students in The Independent aren’t letting that daunt them. Instead they are identifying ways that the journalism industry is changing and how they can adapt their campus news source to the demands. These changes are visible through the increasing range of a reporter’s duties, and the media through which news is disseminated.
Semadeni, who has done an internship with the Durango Herald, has seen first-hand how news organizations are having to adapt to changing demands and why such change was needed at The Independent.
“When I was a reporter for The Independent my first year, I did my stories, I wrote them, someone else took the photos for them, someone else designed the graphics, and someone else promoted it through different mediums,” Semadeni says. “Later, at the Herald, I was expected to write the story, take the video, live tweet it, and it opened my eyes that right now journalism majors going forward, from a reporting standpoint, aren’t just going to be writing stories. They have to be able to do it all.”
Adjusting to the changing atmosphere of journalism has been a big part of the news organization’s history. The philosophy behind The Independent—getting information to students in an in-depth and accurate way while acting as a watchdog—has always stayed the same, but the platform has changed over the years.
Originally a broadsheet-style publication, The Independent has transitioned to a magazine format that publishes four times a semester and which now puts more emphasis on online publication through its website, theindyonline.com.
When Semadeni joined as editor-in-chief, the primary focus of the news organization was its print version of their news stories. Part of the learning process for an organization like The Independent is discerning the difference between what should be an online story and what should be a print story, he says.
“When I took over, my first goal was to transition into a more online-first method. I think we’ve now reached the point where we are primary focused online,” Semadeni says.
Now, with a growing and developing video production department, the organization continues to adapt to the demands of its consumers, primarily the student body, he adds.
“We’re putting social media in all aspects, through getting the message out or live tweeting an event, because a large percentage of the traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter for The Independent,” said Semadeni. “Technology and mediums change, but the basic concept stays the same. We’re trying to adapt to the medium and mirror a workplace as much as we can.”
While it has become an online source for news, The Independent still focuses on print.These print stories tend to be in-depth and focus on issues that have a longer lifespan and are important to the larger student body. Topics that find themselves circulating in the print issues this year include the FLC presidential search, strategic enrollment planning, and the Faculty Senate and Student Senate statements on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy that impacts some FLC students.
At the end of each semester, the work that students completed or assisted with is compiled into a portfolio that the students can use when applying to professional journalism jobs. Demonstrating the realistic journalism experience that they have had on a college campus is an added bonus when they start applying for jobs in the industry, Semadeni says.
With one eye on the present and one eye on the future, Semadeni believes that even though the journalism industry can be in flux today, there’s always a market for the truth.
“Reporting and journalism are never going to go away,” he says. “We stick to our principles, and we teach, and we keep adapting with the times, and we will be prepared.”