Student journalists in Iowa will now have more chances to hone their reporting skills while strengthening local news. The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa’s independent student newspaper, has purchased two weekly local newspapers in the state, per an announcement on Monday.
Media company Woodward Communications sold the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun and Solon Economist to the Daily Iowan in Iowa City. The papers will keep their respective staffs and operate from their current offices. They’ll continuing printing weekly editions on Thursdays, according to Daily Iowan executive editor Sabine Martin. The university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication will help operate the papers to “provide student journalists with opportunities to contribute to the publications and gain local reporting experience.”
The Sun currently has four staff members: one editor, one sports writer, an advertising representative, and an office/sales assistant. The Economist has a staff of three: an editor, a reporter, and an office/sales assistant. By contrast, the Daily Iowan covers a student population of more than 31,000 and has a staff of more than 100 student journalists.
“News-academic partnerships like this one are more important now than ever before as community newspapers reduce staff or close,” said Melissa Tully, the school’s director, in the announcement. “Investing in local journalism and working with nearby communities offers students a chance to produce meaningful work and gain professional experience while working alongside veteran journalists at the newspapers.”
The Daily Iowan’s acquisition is the latest student journalist-run initiative to fortify local news in greater university communities. A recent study from the University of Vermont found more than 120 cases of news-academic partnerships around the United States. Of those, 20 were focused on improving statehouse coverage in 19 states.
In 2021, the owners of the Oglethorpe Echo in Georgia donated the paper to the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. There, UGA students learned firsthand how to report for and operate a rural, community newspaper. In the first 18 months under UGA, the paper launched “six digital products, won awards, tripled advertising, and doubled subscriptions to the 149-year-old weekly newspaper,” as professor and Echo editor Amanda Bright wrote for Nieman Lab last year.
Read the full announcement here.
Universities have long propped up literary magazines that aren’t otherwise profitable.
Could they save local newspapers?
Iowa’s student paper just acquired two small weeklies in nearby towns, and they’re keeping the regular staff and supplementing with student journalists. https://t.co/FKcTNulMGK
— Maurice Chammah🍹🎻 (@MauriceChammah) January 30, 2024
The idea of having young journalists cut their teeth by covering small town. news is wonderful. You can do all the crime and UI stories you want, but there are other skills you fan learn by covering small town city council meetings and community events. https://t.co/kzn1R6NrGj
— Tommy Lang (@tommylang1630) January 30, 2024
— Lyle Muller (@LyleMuller) January 29, 2024