HSPA, Franklin College partner for Statehouse bureau

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Indianapolis – Franklin College and the Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA) announced this week that they will partner to provide coverage of state government and politics for Indiana’s newspapers year-round.

Stories from the college’s Statehouse Bureau will appear on HSPA’s InfoNet, and all HSPA-member newspapers may use them.

“Working with Franklin College’s journalism school on this project was a no-brainer because everyone wins,” said Steve Key, HSPA’s executive director and general counsel. “The students gain real-life experience, Indiana newspapers without the necessary resources to do so before now can provide current coverage of state government, and Hoosiers have the opportunity to learn more about what their state government representatives are doing or contemplating.”

For the past six years, Franklin College has involved its students in writing and reporting for participating Indiana newspapers, operating a Statehouse Bureau over its January term. The bureau generates between 30 and 50 stories per week during that time.

“The Statehouse Bureau is a great example of how Franklin College puts the liberal arts to work,” said college president Jay Moseley. “Like all of our academic programs, the Pulliam School of Journalism extends the classroom into active learning through engagement in the real world. The Statehouse Bureau provides professional development for students in a way that serves our community.”

With support from the HSPA Foundation, among others, the Franklin College Statehouse Bureau now will continue to operate throughout the year.

“The HSPA Foundation granted funding for this program for the excellent educational opportunity it offers students and the benefit readers across the state of Indiana receive through this expanded Statehouse coverage,” said Mayer Maloney, president of the HSPA Foundation Board of Directors and president and publisher of Hoosier Times Inc.

The bureau’s office space is at Emmis Communications on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, only two blocks from the Statehouse. Emmis provides the space for the bureau rent-free.

“We decided to support the Franklin College Statehouse Bureau for two reasons. The first is that we at Emmis Communications take the responsibilities of corporate citizenship seriously and saw an opportunity to help some deserving college students enrich their educational experiences. The second is that, in this time of tremendous pressure and opportunity for everyone in the communications business, this could be a model for future business and not-for-profit partnerships that would help everyone – starting with the audiences that we all want to serve,” said Jeff Smulyan, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Emmis Communications.

John Krull, director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, said, “We had good reasons for starting the Statehouse project. The first is that it provides superb experience and training for our students. The second is that we believe newspapers should be watchdogs of government and, in these difficult days for newspapers, we want to help with that important work.”

The students who have been part of the bureau say that it changes their lives.

“As a freshman, being able to intern with the Franklin College Statehouse Bureau has been an amazing experience, one that I don’t believe I could get at any other institution,” said sophomore Jessica Wray of Franklin, Ind., a journalism major at the college. “It’s a hands-on experience that puts students in a professional media setting and allows us to be on the news frontline of our state. We go from reading the news in our classes, to reporting the news from the scene.”

“My experiences through the Statehouse Bureau so far have been extremely valuable not only to my education, but also to my career choice,” said Samantha Quinn of Dyer, Ind., also a sophomore journalism major. “I’ve gained knowledge of state policy that I wasn’t aware of before and found that I have a stronger passion for politics and how politics affects our state. Working with state leaders has helped to sharpen my interviewing and people skills. It’s safe to say the Statehouse Bureau has helped define some of my long term goals pertaining to journalism.”

Eric Bradner, the Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Evansville Courier & Press, was one of the first students to work on the Statehouse project at Franklin College. Now a Franklin College graduate, he helps edit the students’ stories and serves as a mentor for them.

“For me, covering the Statehouse as a Franklin College student was transformational. We chased after stories no one else was reporting, and found ways to use our resources to go deeper than other news outlets could. It was an education in politics and public policy. It was a lesson in what it takes to do serious journalism under the pressure of intense deadlines and heavy competition. By the time it was over, I knew how I wanted to spend my career,” said Bradner.

The news outlets that use the Franklin College students’ work also say they benefit.

The Sullivan Daily Times was among the first Indiana newspapers to work with Franklin College on the project.

“You might not think that one of the state’s smallest newspapers would get much out of an effort like Franklin College is making,” said Tom Gettinger, the paper’s editor and a former board president for HSPA. “But we’ve found the General Assembly coverage by the Pulliam School has jump-started our in-session coverage of Indiana’s legislature.

“John Krull’s kids often do stories on topics that the Associated Press cannot do, regional or economic issues like coal-bed methane development and Department of Correction issues that mean a great deal to our readers. And with lean times at AP and tighter news holes everywhere, we as an industry can’t let boringly mundane General Assembly coverage sneak into our pages at all. My only complaint is, the Franklin student reporters provide more copy than I have room for.”

During this pilot year of the project, all HSPA members can access the stories generated by the Franklin Statehouse Bureau regardless of participation in InfoNet’s content-sharing program.

To gain access to the students’ stories and InfoNet, go to www.hspainfo.net.

Only HSPA-member papers have authorization to use the copyrighted stories.

Founded in 1834, Franklin College is a residential four-year undergraduate liberal arts institution with a scenic, wooded campus located 20 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis. The college prepares men and women for significant careers through the liberal arts, offering its 1,060 students 36 majors, including biology, business, education and journalism. In 1842, the college began admitting women, becoming the first coeducational institution in Indiana and the seventh in the nation. Franklin College maintains a voluntary association with the American Baptist Churches USA. For more information, visit www.franklincollege.edu.

For more information contact Karen T. Braeckel, HSPA Foundation director, at (317) 624-4426 or kbraeckel@hspa.com.