Joe Treaster is a Professor in the School of Communication. (Click here to read a previous blog article about him and his work.) He is encouraging grad students to get involved in a new online newspaper, called “The Miami Planet.” Professor Treaster kindly answered some questions about this project.
Question: How did this new online newspaper, The Miami Planet, originate at the School of Communication?
Answer: It was the idea of Professor Sig Splichal. We at the University of Miami were the hosts of the Society for Environmental Journalists conference. Professor Splichal had the idea that we could create a newspaper that would be for all the environmental journalists that were coming to South Florida.
Question: What did you first envision its mission to be?
Answer: We would write stories that would give slices of life about South Florida, and we would cover every aspect of the conference so that environmental journalists could read about everything.
Question: How did the project take off?
Answer: It was a collaboration between the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Miami Dade College. We had about 100 student reporters and photographers working on it. We got some fabulous photography and really good stories. And we found that as students worked on this newspaper, the quality of their writing exceeded where it had been previously. The pressure of being under the spotlight of knowing your work is going to get published and seen by a large audience has actually caused professors and students to work harder and better. Which is just what we want as a university. We want our students to go out of here writing well and reporting well. So we add to the beauty and effectiveness of our stories by hiring professional editors who edit the copy after it’s been submitted, add an extra level of polish to it, and the student sees how the story has evolved and improved.
Question: What kind of audience does this online newspaper have?
Answer: We have people in more than 60 countries reading the stories. We’re getting really good feedback. We’ve got a couple hundred comments on our articles.
Q: What’s the significance of an interactive newspaper receiving online comments?
A: We’ve learned in this process that some young readers aren’t going to read an article if it doesn’t have any comments on it. So I’m encouraging everyone who reads to comment. It’s kind of a snow-balling effect. We’re getting more readers all the time. We’re also promoting The Miami Planet on Twitter and Facebook. So you can go to The Miami Planet’s page on Facebook and “like” it.
Q: Who can submit articles?
A: It’s designed to work not as an army of individual freelancers but as a way of enhancing the writing skills and reporting capabilities of students at universities. We want to use this as a model for universities.
Q: Is the project limited to universities in Miami?
A: We’re expanding. We just added a university in Texas. We’re optimistic that we’re going to add one in California. We can add more universities, then we’ll have a lot more reach.
Q: How does Miami Planet differ from a typical student newspaper?
A: There’s a lot of professional guidance. The faculty members are professional editors/writers.