Each month, The Miami Student publishes more than 100 stories online, and we print a newspaper every other week. Whether you pick up a physical copy or visit our website, you’ll be greeted with a broad range of coverage.
But sometimes, you still won’t see the story you want.
In our generation’s 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to expect coverage the moment an event happens. When long-lasting stories like the presidential election or higher education legislation in Ohio break, we’ve been trained to read follow-up after follow-up, constantly exposing ourselves to new angles and in-depth analyses.
It’s easy to forget as consumers that someone on the other end has to produce that.
Like its name suggests, The Student is a team of student journalists, ranging from journalism majors all the way to environmental scientists. And like every other student, we have full course loads, social lives (sometimes), family obligations and hobbies beyond the newsroom.
No matter how ambitious we are, stories will slip through the cracks. Here’s how we decide what to cover — and what you as our readers can do to help or offer feedback.
Taking a story from inception to completion
Regardless of the section, every story begins with an idea. Each section has its own process, but here’s how it works in Campus & Community, our largest section which focuses on news and culture.
First, writers and editors attend a weekly meeting, and everyone comes prepared with two to three story ideas. These can come from anywhere: event calendars, questions our writers have about how things work at Miami University, Oxford City Council agendas, conversations with friends, story tips, Oxford Talk on Facebook and more.
Once everyone has shared their ideas and talked about it, the editors are left with a list — sometimes 30 or more stories long. No matter how good each individual idea is, it would be impossible for us to cover them all. With that in mind, our editors then prioritize, picking the most important and timely stories we need to cover based on a news judgment they’ve cultivated from years of experience at The Student, in classes and at internships.
After that, they pitch back out a pared-down list of ideas to the writers. Often, writers will pick up stories that they themselves pitched, but we have restrictions. Writers can’t interview their own current professors or friends, or cover stories with any relation to them.
A day or two after the meeting, our writers get budget lines. These act as a starting point and explain a bare-bones version of what the story is and who they should reach out to. Unless it’s event coverage, the published article never meshes exactly with our budget lines, because our understanding of stories changes as we speak to sources and gather information.
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Most stories take about two weeks to fully report. Some have a quicker turnaround — think breaking news or events — but if it’s an in-depth report or a feature, it’s going to take time. We aim for a minimum of three sources in most reported stories, and our intent is to take a wide range of perspectives into account for both individual stories and as a publication.
Sometimes, an issue is important enough that we need a team of writers and a period of months to do it justice. What can feel like silence from us is often a sign that we’re hard at work on a difficult story. The less people want to talk to us about something, the more important it is for us to cover, and the longer it’s going to take.
Here’s where you come in
So, where does that leave you, our readers?
Well to start, we don’t know what we don’t know. If there’s something you want to see covered, ask. You can find contact information for each section editor on our about us page online, or you can submit a tip through our story tips page.
Keep in mind that we don’t have the bandwidth to write every story we want to write. It’s never an easy decision to say no to covering something important, but there’s only so much our staff can do. If multiple people suggest the same ideas to us or offer similar feedback on our existing coverage, that’s a strong indication to us that we should start pursuing or continue to pursue similar topics in the future.
If you’re a student, alumnus, Miami employee or Oxford resident, you’re also more than welcome to submit an op-ed to our opinion editor, Devin Ankeney. As a rule, we will edit for AP style and concision — not content — but we might not run columns that don’t have a clear tie to Miami or Oxford. If you submit something that doesn’t run, we’ll always explain why.
For students who are unhappy with our coverage on certain issues, I’d invite you to come write for us. We’re always in need of more reporters with any level of experience, or even voices in the room advocating for coverage of specific topics.
Finally, a personal request: Please be patient with us. We’re all students trying to learn and grow as communicators, as journalists and as people. It’s impossible for a news organization to make everyone happy, and that’s not our job. However, a conversation is a great place to start.