Student Journalists Face Intimidating Landscape, Remain Optimistic

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As people in Alabama process the loss of several daily newspapers, students who would like to see their own name in a byline one day face an uphill battle.

The Crimson White is the student-run newspaper at The University of Alabama.  It recently won a Pulitzer, but the paper's newsroom of students still has to fathom the stark reality of a harsh market.

WHNT News 19 spoke with Editor-in-Chief Will Tucker about the changes in the industry.

"We were kind of just imagining what it would be like to be laid off from a paper that you were extraordinarily loyal to your entire career and just how sad it is for all those people who got laid off," Tucker said.

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But Tucker still believes in the industry, even as it moves away from paper printing.

"A journalist's job is to give the people the truth, so as long as there is a demand for the truth and not just data dumps online or bloggers or commenters on cable news networks, there's going to be a demand for journalists," Tucker said.

Tucker, a Huntsville native, simply believes as the paper industry fades, the journalists that made their way pouring ink onto pages will have to find new outlets.

"Now is not the time to revert back to the way that it has been done for the last hundred years," said Tucker.  "In this atmosphere with these cutbacks and these layoffs, people in journalism have got to just experiment and throw everything at the wall and see what sticks."

The students who put together The Crimson White try a little bit of everything to cope with a changing industry.  They work to diversify their skill sets, familiarizing themselves with every aspect of digital formats along with traditional ones.

Tucker explains, "When somebody who's worked for us goes to a paper in Augusta or a paper in Selma, they end up doing just so many different jobs at those papers, like they do copy editing, they do page layout design, they do writing, editing, everything."

The layoffs at The Huntsville Times and other papers, the disappearance of several days of deliveries - they're discouraging.

But for young people who bleed ink, faith remains in the newspaper format.

"Even in the atmosphere of layoffs and cutbacks and going from print to online, if you can prove to somebody that you're an exceptional journalist, you're going to get a job eventually," said Tucker.

So even if print scales back, there will still be young journalists waiting to fill the pages.

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