UCF student journalist Layla Ferris, right, interviews UCF student Carlos Jara. Photo by Dominique Smith.

#SaveStudentNewsrooms: Why student journalism matters

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Student-run newsrooms are important.

They are important to readers who flip through the latest edition of the paper to get university updates. They are important to those who scroll to read up on local breaking news online.

They are important to those whose stories get told through the voices of student journalists  — stories that might stay hidden if it weren’t for the curiosity that burns inside the writers.

They provide information — that much is obvious.

But they also provide opportunity.

Every student newsroom needs an army: an editor-in-chief, managing editor, a team of hardworking reporters, a group of faithful section editors and copy editors.

Each newsroom needs a staff of students who question the obvious and find something extraordinary in the ordinary.

A student-run newsroom gives these individuals the chance to hold leadership positions, fulfill reporting goals and concentrate on what matters to them and their audience. These opportunities can be lost in the shuffle at larger publications, where most people start low on the ladder and have little say in the editorial process.

I was given an opportunity I didn’t expect at an independent online student publication in Orlando, Florida. As painfully cliche as it sounds, I wouldn’t have grown into the person I am today without it.

I became the managing editor of the Central Florida Focus in August of 2017. I was given power and the permission to run with it. It instilled a drive in me to teach budding student journalists to write better, edit smarter and think differently so they too can lead a student newsroom one day.

It’s more than mastering AP Style and public record requests. It’s more than clips and bylines.

It’s working with friends and mentors to create something bigger than ourselves. But it’s also long nights and hard decisions.

When I first started out at the Focus, I was undoubtedly the mentee. Fast forward eight months and I’ve realized that I’m now a mentor.

Without a student-run newsroom I would never have known how much I could grow as a writer, editor and leader.

Without the experience I gained from this position, I wouldn’t be able to give the confident, authentic advice that I give to my journalism peers who are scared or uncertain.

Sure, student-run newsrooms help young journalists learn industry skills that we are desperate to acquire before our first job.

But I’ve found that student-run newsrooms can provide more than just bullet points on a resume. They provide endless opportunities to foster talent and confidence.

In another eight months, I’ll be a UCF graduate. And while I’ll have a couple more internships under my belt, I know I won’t get an opportunity like this again.

I won’t get to call the shots after graduation. In a “real-life newsroom,” I’ll have to crawl my way up a slippery ladder. My editors won’t be as likely to take a chance on me. But I’ll take the skills I’ve learned, and they’ll help me hold tight to each rung of the ladder as I climb.

I’m glad that I learned, lived and experienced an independent student newsroom.

But it doesn’t end with me.

Every student journalist deserves the opportunity to rise to the challenge and see what they can become.