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When the Student Newspaper Is the Only Daily Paper in Town

When the Student Newspaper Is the Only Daily Paper in Town

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Dan Levin’s recent article in the New York Times reports the impact of 2,000 newspaper closures on more than 1,300 small towns and cities and how some of the coverage is picked up by the local college paper. Most of the article revolves around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the Michigan Daily provided local coverage after the Ann Arbor News shuttered its daily print operation more than a decade ago. More than 300 students write for the Daily, a number made possible by the size of the school and that all of them are unpaid. Although the University of Michigan does not have a journalism school to provide them education and training, the students understand the need to cover their local community. The Daily prints about 7,500 copies each day with much broader readership of its electronic version, which garners nearly 500,000 monthly page views.

One challenge of having students cover local news is that their tenure as reporters is short, two or three years at most. By the time many establish connections with local politicians or understand the workings of the local city council, they’re moving on to graduate school or employment. Sometimes their lack of institutional knowledge subjects their coverage of a municipal issue to the political spin of the elected official they interview. Residents of Ann Arbor interviewed for the story are grateful for the local coverage even though several yearned for the past when the News published daily.

I am intrigued by Levin’s article and curious how many similar situations exist. While some Duke Chronicle reporters moved up to successful careers in journalism, most of us chose other professions. Writing for the college paper was a valuable part of my college experience, allowing me to understand the process of assignment and event coverage and how the editors influenced article prominence and how much of the article was published.

The ability of the press to report and frame political issues has led some to refer to them as the Fourth Estate. If the Fourth Estate continues to shrink in all but the highest populated geographic areas because of a depressed economy, perhaps more public/private partnerships can develop with local college and university papers and area residents. In Ann Arbor, it appears that it already has.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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