Date of Award

Summer 8-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Chair

David R. Davies

Committee Chair Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 2

Cheryl D. Jenkins

Committee Member 2 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 3

Christopher P. Campbell

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Kim M. LeDuff

Committee Member 4 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 5

Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

The work of student journalists often appears as a source in the footnotes when researchers tell the story of perhaps the most significant period in the history of higher education in the United States – the student protest era throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Yet researchers and historians have ignored the student press itself during this same time period. This dissertation considers how the student reporters and editors did their job during major protests that occurred between 1962 and 1970, and tells not only the story of reporting protest but the individual stories of the student journalists.

The key protests considered are integration in 1962 at Ole Miss, the Free Speech Movement beginning in 1964 at Berkeley, building occupations of 1968 at Howard and Columbia universities, and the 1970 shootings of students at Kent State and Jackson State that touched off violence at more than 500 campuses nationwide. These protests are not meant to be inclusive of all the protests that occurred in this timeframe, but rather represent the major underlying issues for which students were demanding change throughout the period. The three key issues included race and civil rights, student rights and administration control, and the Vietnam War and the university’s role in supporting it. The student newspapers reporting these protests also confronted several of the challenges student journalists often face: maintaining freedom of the press, understanding the role of the student newspaper, defining personal positions as journalists, and developing journalistic skills.

The research found student journalists considered themselves as professionals who worked hard to get at the deeper issues behind the protests. Though the student newspaper staff might support the cause of the protest, none of the staffs in this study condoned violent behavior that injured people or caused property damage. Many went on to be professional journalists who credited their student newspaper experience as being a major training ground for their careers.

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