The Sentry at the National College Media Convention in D.C.
critiques, keynote speakers, and creating a podcast
by Jaleesia Fobbs, Samantha Register, and Alexander Elmore
Every year the Associated Collegiate Press hosts a conference where student publications of any type across the country are invited to attend workshops, have their publications critiqued, attend lectures by prominent industry professionals, and compete for various prizes and honors in journalism.
2019 marked The Sentry’s fourth year in attendance at the conference, which was held in Washington D.C. The four day event was attended by Editor-in-Chief Jaleesia Fobbs, Managing/Forum Editor Alexander Elmore, News Editor Samantha Register, and Faculty Advisor Teague Bohlen. Here are the editors’ thoughts and takeaways from the convention.
The Associated Collegiate Press Conference gives student publications the opportunity to get advice outside of their advisors from other professionals in the field through a critiquing process. This year The Sentry got back some great feedback from the critique session and is already working on some ideas in what would be implemented in this upcoming semester. A lot of the feedback involved ways The Sentry could improve its design from minor technical things like consistency in spacing to changing how to use its “free pages” per se and being more experimental within our Cover, Photobooth, and Contents pages.
However, it should be noted that The Sentry is a true competitor as a student publication from a school that doesn’t have a J-School. There is a lot to be proud of from a writing, photography, and illustration standpoint and for that everyone should be commended for their work ethic and the levels of productivity they bring to the table each year.
Moving forward to the future of The Sentry, the biggest takeaway from the critique was learning to try new things and be more creative and experimental because those who do are the ones who reap the benefits. From a school that doesn’t have a journalism program there is a benefit to being formulaic especially when new students filter in and out on staff but it’s finding the students who want to push The Sentry outside of the boxes that will elevate The Sentry to a higher standard.
Various speakers at the National College Media Convention—from Marty Baron, Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Post, to CNN correspondent Abby Phillip—underscored a concerning phenomenon: the free press under attack. As Baron pointed out, this isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, as Baron pointed to defenders of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal as examples. However, the 24-hour news cycle and the increasing use of social media platforms only contribute to a contentious climate.
Some of this involves accusations of “fake news” from a variety of public figures, including the current president of the United States. Some of this involves harassment on social media or even at public events. Unfortunately, both public figures and everyday citizens alike increasingly feel the need to lash out at reporters and news outlets just for highlighting something that is inconvenient to their worldview. This has even resulted in violence in some cases, including the murder of Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi.
Baron added that the debate around free speech is particularly pronounced on college campuses. Recently, there have been controversies on college campuses across the country involving the right of conservative activists, including Ann Coulter and Charlie Kirk, to organize campus events. When universities allow these speakers on campus, including a recent event with Kirk and Donald Trump Jr. at Colorado State University, they are often met with protests.
In response to these incidences, Baron asserted that it’s important to remember that the first amendment means “freedom for everyone to speak their minds.” He pointed to a recent incident when a university newspaper was criticized for asking ICE to comment on a story about an “Abolish ICE” rally on campus. “Our job is to talk to everybody,” Barron insisted.
The Sentry has toyed around with the idea of a podcast for about a year now, but it has always been something that would just be “cool,” never something that was conceivable. The conference offered some panels geared towards publications interested in moving into auditory journalism.
The biggest question brought up in these panels was, “What would a Sentry podcast be about?” Over and over, the workshop presenters emphasized that having an angle and a unique story are of utmost importance. What stories are best told in an aural format, they asked. If any readers have ideas about this, comments and suggestions are always welcome.
The current goal is to spend the spring 2020 semester laying the groundwork for a podcast to debut sometime in fall 2020. A year is a long time to work on something, and it is a daunting task for those who are undertaking it. Finding the equipment, time, and space to record a podcast is, of course, a big challenge. It must also be considered whether or not Auraria and UC Denver have an audience that would want the content that would be made. Lastly, again, there is the question of “What is The Sentry’s unique story to tell?”