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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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Giving readers what they want, serious reporting will never die

Editor’s note: As part of a media transparency initiative, on May 8, 2017, the Collegian spent the last day of publishing of the year telling our readers about us. You can read more about the people behind our publication in the Editor’s Blog.  

I was honored to write what turned out to be the two most popular pieces of this year, unfortunately I can’t for a moment pretend the pieces were well-read because of my own skills and journalistic ability. Sometimes stories just need to be told – that’s the privilege and the duty of journalists. In September, I broke the news that the Colorado State University marching band would be discontinuing the popular routine formally known as “Trombone Suicides.” In March, I wrote the only article published under an official publication about the perspective of Stephanie Bess, the ex-girlfriend of CSU basketball star Gian Clavell who had been arrested twice on accounts of domestic abuse. These two articles were different subjects, but provided similar lessons and an exciting implication about what readers want. Modern media is concerned with page views, shares and likes and in these conversations about content there is a tendency to make readers sound dumb and shallow.

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So, what does it mean when the two most-read articles of the year are articles about misinformation coming for authorities, a lack of university accountability, and student perspectives? The top read articles weren’t listicals. They weren’t about puppies, Harry Potter or celebrity gossip. It is hugely important to recognize that readers want substance and want to learn something new.

When I found out that a popular marching band routine was cut, I initially had no interest in covering it. I was surprised it was a news story at all. Come on, some band kids couldn’t do a song they like anymore, what’s the big deal? After some research, I found out it was kind of a big deal. When I broke the news, the article received 14,150 page views.

So, what was the big deal? After multiple anonymous interviews with band students scared to lose their scholarship, public records requests and many annoying voicemails, I discovered that band directors lied to their students. That’s a big deal. I published two follow-up articles that revealed the frustration of band members and band alumni, how upset students are, but most importantly how band directors mislead their students.

In January, I learned that the victim in the case of a CSU basketball star’s arrests was an ex-girlfriend newly willing to speak to media. I tried to get in contact with her immediately – this was a side of the story the public hadn’t heard. More was at stake this time, but it was too important to be missed. It took months to gather enough interviews to confidently publish an article about Stephanie Bess. I learned she was a student, an athlete, a part-time employee and ready to be heard. She was upset, not just because of her abusive relationship with Gian Clavell but because she felt the University was actively silencing her case. Hours of research and fact-checking for days culminated to a piece that received 18,920 page views, the most of any article this academic year.

I’m on no mission to take down the University, and I’m certainly not on a mission to find stories that give the Collegian reads for the sake of reads, but I have been inspired to tell the stories that need to be told.

Perhaps it’s not a strict dichotomy. Readers may like listicals, puppies, Harry Potter and celebrity gossip, and content-producers can react appropriately, but according to this year’s analytics, Collegian readers want articles full of genuine reporting. I’m certainly up to the task.

Collegian reporter Tatiana Talesnick-Parafiniuk can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.

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