Intrepid Collegiate Reporting Highlights the Outstanding Work Students Are Producing

September 2023
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Student journalists made headlines this past summer for their tenacious reporting.

Investigations by The Daily Northwestern and The Stanford Daily into the misconduct of prominent school leaders led to significant consequences.

The Daily Northwestern exposed allegations of hazing and racism within Northwestern University’s football program, which led to the dismissal of Pat Fitzgerald, the once-beloved head coach of 17 seasons. 

The school initially released a short news release on a summer Friday, July 7, stating that Fitzgerald was suspended for two weeks. According to The Washington Post, the student reporters “wasted no time digging into what they saw as holes in the administration’s announcement.” By July 10, systemic hazing within the Northwestern football program was a national news story.

At Stanford, the Daily’s revelations prompted an inquiry that led to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation due to mishandling inaccurate research information. 

As The Hill pointed out, both cases underscore the diminishing presence of local media outlets in investigative reporting and highlight the necessity of student journalists in ensuring transparency and accountability. 

Elsewhere, this summer at the Ohio State University, reporters at The Lantern, the school’s paper, continued to pursue a story about former President Kristina Johnson’s resignation after local outlets gave up. 

Through a successful legal challenge against the school, the paper learned that a signed agreement between the former president and the university revealed that Johnson could not speak negatively about Ohio State. 

As a former editor-in-chief of The Lantern, I was pleased to see the dedicated investigation at Ohio State — as well as at Stanford and Northwestern. 

Impressive student work

These stories more broadly showcase the quality real-world work that students produce today in comms/PR/journalism schools. For example, look at PRSSA’s most recent Bateman Case Study Competition, where the University of Florida took top honors.

For the 2022-23 academic year, PRSSA teamed up with the News Literacy Project to challenge students to create and raise awareness about mis- and disinformation.

During the campaign, the Florida team hosted 30 news literacy workshops and motivated 1,111 people to sign a pledge to stop the spread of misinformation on the way to inspiring a new generation of news-literate residents there.

During a phone interview in July with Luke Capizzo, APR, Ph.D., assistant professor, strategic communication, Missouri School of Journalism, we discussed the recent high-profile student reporting.

He said that the Mizzou journalism school’s legacy as one of the top programs in the world is one of the reasons why it’s an honor for him to teach there. 

“I think that helps instill in every student — not just the ones who are working every day on those beats — the value and importance of journalism, but also the potentially valuable symbiotic relationship between public relations and news. They can make substantive, useful contributions to those stories and see how those stories are being created, rather than think about news as this sort of abstract thing,” he said.

Turn to our Profiles in PR feature to learn more about Capizzo’s work as an educator. 

Return to Current Issue Media Relations | September 2023
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