In era of shrinking mainstream media, journalism schools like Arizona's are filling the void

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Students at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism produce several publications including one of the oldest university newspapers in the country, a 30-minute video news magazine and an online news service that supplies original content to professional news organizations around the country.

As mainstream media outlets reduce staff, go digital or shut down altogether, original reporting becomes harder to come by. Earlier this year, the Tucson Citizen permanently closed its doors. Founded in 1870, the newspaper went digital in 2009 in order to save costs, but in January 2014, the digital version shut down as well.

Across the country, journalism schools are filling the void.

Dan Reimold, a journalism professor at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, told Fox News Latino, "Student news outlets and university journalism programs are media power players to a degree that would have seemed laughable just a few decades ago."

The school's Arizona Sonora News Service offers media outlets student-produced articles and videos, many of which "are picked up by
local news outlets throughout the state,” said associate professor Celeste González de Bustamente.

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González de Bustamente teaches a course on how to effectively report on the U.S.-Mexico border region. She encourages students to look beyond the stories they see on television and in print, and find things that only they can cover.

“Our goal is to fill a niche. For example, El Independiente, a bilingual news magazine, focuses on South Tucson – a small one-square mile city surrounded by greater Tucson that remains off the map for most local news outlets,” González de Bustamente told Fox News Latino.

The school’s various productions and publications reach a large group of people around the state of Arizona. The student-produced Arizona Cat’s Eye airs on Arizona Public Media, a channel viewed by over 280,000 unique viewers each month. Students also distribute the program online.

“The need for quality news content is enormous, and will continue as more people see value in finding online news. Young, up-and-coming journalists have a fresh perspective that’s often overlooked in traditional legacy media, so I do think this is more than a trend. It’s also much less expensive to hire younger journalists, making it economically advantageous for news organizations to hire up and coming reporters,” said González de Bustamente.

Arizona isn't alone in this phenomenon. "Most schools are the major media entities in their communities," Reimold said. "Student media now regularly scoop the outside local and even national media on stories big and small."

He added that part of the reason is "student media and journalism students [have] a much more prominent platform to deliver their news and commentary. Issues like student debt, the big business of college athletics, student sexual violence, millennials' political apathy and campus safety have woven their way into the larger news cycle. Every time a new sports season, election season, jobs report or school shooting pops up, audiences want to hear the student voice in the related discussions."

Former students of the program have moved on to jobs with both local and national news outlets. Whether the goal is to be behind the camera or on the scene, professors help the young journalists bring their careers into focus by reinforcing the importance of being unique.

“Part of our mission is to educate and train our students to cover news and important issues that are not being covered by other daily news outlets… All of our skills courses are very hands-on. Students learn by doing, so they’re out reporting and writing as much as possible,” said Professor González de Bustamente.