College students have been covering news for their communities from the very beginning of journalism education. The learning-by-doing model is the hallmark of journalism education in the United States. Conceived as a way to train the next generation of journalists, the approach also has become an increasingly vital part of local news coverage.


The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology led the production of the report, Student Journalists: Fueling Local News, a collaboration between the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. In conjunction with the Press Forward initiative, The MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation supported the concept for this work and provided important feedback. The MacArthur Foundation provided financial support that enabled the effort.

The Local News Landscape

According to a study by the University of Vermont’s Center for Community News, students produced more than 10,000 local news stories appearing in more than 1,500 news outlets across the U.S. over the past year, generating more than 14 million page views. CCN has identified 120 university-led student reporting programs providing local news.

In a myriad of ways, using a myriad of models, college journalists are already filling the gaps in news coverage across the country. The purpose of this report is to explore three questions:

  1. What are programs doing now?

  2. Could that work be expanded?

  3. Are there opportunities to work together?

What We Learned

  • Efforts to expand statehouse coverage and build a supportive network of programs doing that work are well underway. This provides a foundation for other efforts to build upon.
  • Models for serving as news services providing coverage for multiple media outlets are well-established at a number of larger programs. These models hold lessons not only in how best to do that work but in the very real challenges of building relationships with local news organizations that are deeply stressed and subject to constant staff turnover.
  • There are promising ideas for cooperation across universities, including collaborations between public universities and HBCUs, that bear exploration.
  • Programs are actively filling coverage gaps by establishing or running community sites in news deserts and deeply underserved communities. While there are challenges to continuity in that model, there are also benefits that come in the form of deepening community engagement and not being at the mercy of legacy platforms.
  • To that point: Distribution and community engagement are real issues to be addressed. Creating more news content is an empty gesture if we can’t get it into the hands of those who need it.
  • College programs face their own internal challenges that must be acknowledged and addressed: Maintaining enrollment levels among journalism majors, lack of student interest in covering local news and maintaining continuity of coverage across semesters and breaks with an ever-changing student staff. There are programs experimenting withways to address these issues; those efforts could provide opportunities for sharing and collaborative support.

If you want to learn more about the report or learn how to get involved with this initiative, email for more information.