Jane Pope retired from UTK on June 30 after 40 years of distinguished service to the University – the last 27 years as director of student publications and the prior 13 years as assistant director, producer and editor in UT’s Office of Public Relations/University Communications. During her time at UT she had the opportunity to help many students develop their journalistic, writing and marketing skills through The Daily Beacon, The Volunteer Yearbook and Phoenix Literary Magazine.
Pope estimated that about half of the student staff for The Daily Beacon, The Volunteer Yearbook and Phoenix Literary Magazine came from CCI and noted that many UTK student publications’ alumni have gone on to become successful by leveraging their student media experience into professional careers.
Pope noted that journalism, public relations and communication studies majors are common in the student publication staff ranks because they work as part of a team and get to shoulder the responsibilities of the real work challenges they will face upon graduation.
CCI students currently working on the Beacon staff include Victoria Wright, summer editor in chief; R.J. Vogt (A&S College Studies major with a focus on journalism), managing editor for the summer and editor in chief for the fall; Sookjo Park, fall advertising manager; Melodi Erdogan, summer arts and culture editor and fall managing editor; and Samantha Smoak, copy editor. CCI students now working at student publications include: David Cobb, Gage Arnold (also current News Sentinel intern), Troy Provost Heron, Anthony Elias, Patrick McCoon, and Steven Cook.
According to Pope, students must work very hard to balance their academic studies and their work on student publications. While the news cycle is 24/7, students must make their studies a priority. “It is a constant battle to keep student publication jobs student-sized,” said Pope.
Pope shared that, as in the commercial world of communications, social media have served to increase the workload for student writers, editors and publishers. The changing economics of balancing print and web publishing and incorporation of new information delivery systems are also key challenges for UTK’s student publications. Non-CCI majors who serve on student publication staffs typically major in English, technical writing, marketing, history, art and graphic design, with occasional engineering and biological sciences students who value participation in student publications from a previous experience according to Pope. The common thread among the students is the recognition that communications will play a pivotal role in their future careers. Most also see their participation as a way to build communication skills, to develop a portfolio, to contribute to campus life and to be fully immersed in their college experience.
Participation in student publication activities also drives some non-CCI students to minor in a CCI subject area. Their options include journalism and electronic media, information studies and technology, and communication studies.
University newspapers fall into one of three categories: non-profit organizations run by an outside entity, classroom-structure or so called “lab” newspapers, and editorially independent, which is The Daily Beacon’s model. Pope cites the paper’s organizational structure as an important attribute of the experience because, without shouldering the full obligation of responsible journalism, students would not learn as much, and the experience would be less like the work settings they will face when they graduate.