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Tarleton student journalists participate in industry roundtable

By Abigail Allen/TCCJ Contributor

The future of Texas journalism sat in front of representatives from North and West Texas community newspapers Friday in Hamilton to discuss how to engage young people.

Six Tarleton State University students accompanied Austin Lewter, the director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism as well as a Tarleton instructor and the Texan News Service coordinator, to share their thoughts on how to reach them and their peers at the second-annual combined convention of the North and East Texas Press Association and the West Texas Press Association.

“Wyndi [Veigel] called and said, ‘Hey, would you come talk for about 45 minutes about how to engage younger people?’ and I said, ‘It would be a lot easier if I just brought you some younger people to talk to,’” Lewter said.

Those younger people were TNS Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Guarjardo, Managing Editor Sierra Wells, Senior Producer Nicholas Ratcliff, Associate Producer Kyley Wilhite and graphic designer Taite Read as well as TCCJ’s student intern Christa Wilson.

The Texan News Service staff produces more than just a print product, Lewter said, also churning out television and video news, audio news and online news.

“These students who come out of our program come out with audio chops, with video chops, digital chops,” Lewter said. “And, by the time I’m done with them, hopefully they’ll know how to write a good story, too.”

The subjects the students tackled ranged from how they get their news and what their peers are interested in consuming, to what they’re looking for in employment and why they’re pursuing journalism.

All of them access their news online, whether through their social media feeds, Google News for the Android users or Apple News for the iPhone users, or through email.

“Social media brings it to me,” Guarjardo said.

Ratcliff is a self-proclaimed over-reader who accesses the media bias chart weekly and reads articles on the same topic from varied sources to combat issues of media bias.

He encouraged the editors, publishers and other journalists in the room to demonstrate to people his age that they are a trustworthy source of news.

Lewter also suggested that decisionmakers at local papers prioritize hiring “digital native positions”—for both editorial and advertising, when possible—to reach those online eyes.

When the discussion shifted to what publishers can do to entice young adults to work for them, the students had a few suggestions.

Those including promising a salary increase so the young journalists know they won’t be stuck at entry-level pay forever, providing a flexible work environment, and fostering an engaging and supportive newsroom.

Drawing on a practice hospitals in the Tyler and Longview area are using, Jim Bardwell, the Texas Press Association president and publisher of the Gladewater Mirror, Lindale News and Times, and the White Oak Independent, asked whether offering to help employees repay their student loans would attract them.

Wilson said that would help give her peace of mind as she leaves school and has to start making those payments.

Barbara Brannon, who is the editor and associate publisher of The Texas Spur, who also works with The Caprock Courier and the Floyd County Hesperian Beacon, brought up the “creative fringe benefit” of providing housing as a way to attract young reporters.

The students also talked about the responses they’ve had, either from peers or professors, to their work.

Wells talked about getting the most response on something that had a big impact on the culture of the school—a piece called “Purple Poo suspended for hazing” that discussed the spirit organization being suspended in March of 2021.

The responses can be harsh at times, Ratcliff said, with people sometimes asking how he and the TNS staff can be so critical of Tarleton.

“I love [the school] enough to do this,” he said.

Lange Svehlak, publisher of the Athens Daily Review, expressed his appreciation for the students and their willingness to be put on the spot for the roundtable.

“You give me hope, not just for the journalism industry, but also for your generation,” Svehlak said.

To see the work the Texan News Service staff creates, visit

Abigail Allen is the Managing Editor of the The Pilot Point Post-Signal.

Front Page Future of news

Let them print

The students studying journalism at Texas A&M University could have a valuable tool hampered by that school’s administration.

Taking away the print product produced by The Battalion’s staff by TAMU Pres. M. Katherine Banks, who at her own admission didn’t get why a paper newspaper matters, seems shortsighted.

“I’m not a professor of journalism; I don’t understand exactly why [print media] is important to the field,” The Battalion quoted Banks saying.

None of the journalism professors who work with the paper were asked for their input, according to the staff report.

Why ask an expert you trust to teach your students for their thoughts before making a sweeping announcement that you’re altering a paper that’s over 100 years old?

When I got to the University of North Texas, I had big plans for my future in journalism.

I was going to double-major in journalism and international studies and a minor in Spanish with the intention of becoming a foreign correspondent.

War had been in the news since Sept. 11, 2001. I graduated from high school in May 2007.

My history and language courses were filled with lessons about the difficulties people in third-world countries faced.

Plus, I wanted to do something that made a big impact on the world.

When I got to UNT, the way I wanted to immerse myself in the journalism world was to work for the North Texas Daily.

My professors helped us understand the value and impact our reporting could have when done well.

I got to practice my skills at news reporting, leadership, opinion writing, copy editing and various other aspects of working at a newspaper.

My work there helped me land an internship at the Dallas Morning News and led directly to the work I did with the Community Impact Newspaper after I graduated.

I’m grateful life took a turn from my aspirations of being a foreign correspondent to working for this local newspaper with a young family, but the work I do is still important. Without the practical experience I got at the Daily, I would have been lost in the transition to the work force.

The Daily was a laboratory with real accountability for any mistakes I or my fellow journalists made.

It was also a place where we as student journalists worked next to professional journalists, both still in the field and on the college’s staff.

Those professors would mercilessly tear apart our work with literal red marks coating the printed page, telling us how we could improve.

I still remember many of those comments as well as the tiny drawings in the white space that we left bare.

If such a major change is going to happen to a university newspaper, it should be done with the input and direction of the stakeholders who understand the stakes.

On Wednesday, Banks indicated that she might be changing her mind, in large part to the response to her decision.

“I care deeply about journalism at Texas A&M,” she said to The Battalion. “The reaction to this plan makes it clear that I should seek additional community feedback on the role of The Battalion and the rebuilt Department of Journalism, while also getting feedback about industry trends and future workforce needs.”

I commend her for taking the feedback, and criticism, she received and being willing to re-evaluate her decision. I hope that keeps the paper printing for years to come.

Abigail Allen is the Managing Editor editor of the Pilot Point Post-Signal. She can be reached at [email protected].