Student Media Advising

Sophomore Farrah Anderson receives a voicing critique from Illinois Public Media senior producer Steve Morck, one of the IPM professionals who mentor our students. Anderson’s work has garnered state and national awards, including a Hearst Awards medallion.

2020 to present — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I’ve created the “Illinois Student Newsroom at Illinois Public Media,” a student-focused training and production space within a professional NPR-affiliate newsroom.

Here I teach, train and place students in the profession of audio journalism. In a new student newsroom adjacent to IPM offices, students collaborate daily with professional audio journalists. The students report, write, interview, anchor and produce everything from breaking news to full podcasts and multimedia packages. They sit in on meetings and help make news-content decisions. In just two years, they have become an integral part of a professional radio newsroom and the news-radio voice of eastern Illinois.

Hired in 2020 as the Illinois College of Media’s first clinical assistant professor in journalism, I was tasked with creating greater connection between student journalists and IPM. That’s what I’ve done. I took U of I journalism from having six student stories on the air in the year before I arrived to 170 in my first year and 350 in my second.

Several of those student stories won regional or national awards. Three placed in the top 20 of the national Hearst audio journalism competition, and one student traveled to nationals and captured second place in Hearst’s 2022 Audio Championships, earning a combined $15,000 for her and my journalism department. We continued the successes in 2023, with two more medallions, placing our program in the top 20 in each of the three years of our existence.

We’re just getting started.

 2006 to 2020 — University of Vermont

I supported UVMtv leaders in their efforts to create a student-led newsroom. Here I coach UVMtv president Callie Bowen during green screen training in the student TV studios.

I’ve had the privilege of creating not one but two student media programs, starting at the University of Vermont, where I was hired as the first full-time multimedia adviser of The Vermont Cynic newspaper, WRUV-FM and UVMtv. When I left the position in 2020 after 14 years, my students shared their experiences working with me. I hope it gives a sense of how I value the students and work to help them achieve their goals.

UVM created my position to rehabilitate The Cynic, a 123-year-old newspaper that had suffered years of neglect. Before my arrival, editors printed opinion on every page, plagiarized and mismanaged funds. An equally urgent leadership crisis existed at WRUV-FM, where students had abdicated their leadership role to a controlling group of non-student DJ volunteers.

In the years I advised UVM student media, the Cynic won numerous awards for investigative journalism and diversity coverage, including Pacemakers for both online and print versions—one year becoming the only paper without a formal journalism program to win its category—and over time won Story of the Year and Diversity Story of the Year. Finances stayed consistently in the black.

The Diversity Story of the Year award from Associated Collegiate Press went to the Vermont Cynic for the students’ deeply researched multimedia package about the longtime practice of blackface at the University of Vermont.

My proudest accomplishments come from successes in the areas of diversity and leadership. After some hard conversations about sexism in the newsroom, Cynic staffers elected their first female editor-in-chief in a decade, and several more since. Diversity trainings viewed through a social justice lens started with me but soon became a core part of student-led efforts to diversify and strengthen their organizations so they would serve all communities.

On the broadcast side, WRUV students showed grit and wrested control of the station from those non-students, and became dynamic, thoughtful leaders in the process. At UVMtv, an energized crew tripled their membership base.

Our media students consistently went on to land stellar internships and jobs at the likes of WIRED, USA Today, Apple, The Jerusalem Post, The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Good Morning America and The Boston Globe.

2004 to 2006 — Valencia Community College

Having come through the University of Kansas student newsroom as an undergrad—with many of my best college memories having taken place there—I was thrilled when Valencia Community College in Orlando “gave me my own newsroom.”

My time at Valencia helped me understand what it really meant to be an adviser, and I realized, in the trial by fire that is every professional adviser’s first year or two that I shouldn’t for an instant think of the newsroom as my own.

The newsroom belongs to the students. It’s their home during an educational journey that starts and ends with them.

My place was to teach, to guide, to support the students and to get them to question their own thinking. But the adviser is only a small part of equation, right alongside the students’ peers, readers, sources, critics and more.

Most of my Valencia students were the first in their families to enter college. Many doubted they could graduate. But in the newsroom, they saw potential in one another and in themselves. Students who showed promise advanced to leadership roles.

Many of my community college students had never traveled outside Florida. Those who advanced to leadership roles in the newsroom traveled to national college media conventions in Nashville, Kansas City and New York City. The students I traveled with to Washington D.C. spent an afternoon at the National Press Club.

Often they succeeded beyond their own expectations.

One middle-aged daughter of longtime Disney World character performers gained entry into the Ivy League at Columbia University in NYC. A single mother in her 20s took a job in our business department to earn money, rose to the position of ad manager, and eventually completed her journey from the working class to the middle class. Students transferred to four-year colleges and continued on to become journalists and lobbyists and lawyers.

It was in the community college newsroom that these students became a team and coached one another along to greater things. It was my privilege to help facilitate the journey.

[Chris Evans] shaped a generation of Vermont journalists, and we’ll never forget that … shaped us into leaders, and just thoughtful, well-rounded human beings.

Aviva Loeb, engagement editor, The Washington Post