Examples: university news sites

Most university journalism degrees include newsdays or production workshops where students work individually and in teams to produce a media output of a professional standard. This series of posts aims to discuss the value of newsdays based on my experience running a unit that offers a similar workplace simulation.

I took a long trawl through the journalism undergraduate degrees listed in the Guardian University league tables looking for public-facing journalism course news site – the kind of thing that the BJTC seeks to encourage. Obviously, not all courses are BJTC accredited and many courses are doing very interesting things online but hide it from Google. In short, there may be many sites missing.

In case you are wondering, Kent’s BA (Hons) journalism and the news industry degree is top of the Guardian League Table ‘pops’. Along with being heavily involved in local TV (good luck with that one!), it is also an advocate of Drupal CMS. However, I couldn’t find a public-facing news website.

Although I have taught Joomla! in the past and still believe its ‘article manager’ is much better than WordPress in handling a large number of student contributors, it is clear that WordPress is by far the most used CMS for uni sites. WordPress is free, easier to learn than both Joomla! and Drupal, and is used for small to medium sized wesbsites in industry.

For larger sites, Drupal and the commercial Escenic dominates multimedia production in industry.  Possibly, UCLAN has invested in Escenic.

There are some great uni sites listed above. The majority are set up as local newspaper style websites and the sites from Liverpool John Moores, and Goldsmiths, the latter which sometimes takes a campaigning stance on local issues, are particularly strong in this area.

However, Leeds Trinity with its Tour De France coverage, UCA Farnham with its Hog’s Back TV and UCLAN show how websites that go for ‘verticals’ can often work well.  I have a preference for journalism news sites that are doing more advanced experimental things, even if the execution isn’t always perfect (students are still learning after all).

Bournemouth is also doing very interesting things online, although I had a few problems trying to work out which sites were run by journalism students and which were run by their student union.

The vast majority of sites were doing ‘text and image’ stories with some embedded audio and YouTube video (less commonly Vimeo). Obviously, YouTube always trumps Vimeo in terms of numbers of users. Student journalists need and want exposure.

Winchester was particularly strong on video inclusion, making it the centrepiece of the site rather than text-based stories. Sites were quite weak on evidence of mobile and interaction on social media, however I am only basing this view on the sites that I could access. In many cases courses will no doubt keep some of their more experimental sites hidden.

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