Why college newspapers are so important

February 1, 2024
Izzy Quam '25

Last semester, I took a risk and signed up for a course called “Storytelling and Design for Publication,” more commonly known as The Defender. The Defender, formerly The Michaelman, is our student-run newspaper that has been serving the Saint Michael’s College community since 1947.


“It is important for any community to have a newspaper so its members can be involved and stay informed on what is happening. A college newspaper, in particular, is a great platform for students to have a voice, to stay informed and to hold the administration and themselves accountable,” Jerry Swope said, Chair of the Digital Media and Communications Department and advisor of The Defender

Izzy Quam ’25

While this class was very out of my comfort zone, and it was incredibly stressful at times, I can now say it was one of the best academic decisions I have made. I have always been interested in journalism, but I really went into the class feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. By the end of the semester, I had learned so much. I learned how to find stories and create pitches, write different styles of articles, interview sources, design pages, work with other writers, meet a strict deadline, and so much more. No matter what field I go into, I know I will use the skills I gained from The Defender.  

“Students can gain so much practical, real-world experience,” Swope said. “From writing to photography and design to video production for the web site and social media, students gain amazing hands-on communication skills. Students also gain important management and ethical leadership skills in producing the paper and navigating challenging and sensitive stories that impact our campus community and broader Vermont communities,” Swope said. “These are great skills to develop no matter what profession students want to pursue after college. The Defender is a great opportunity even for students who might not want to be future journalists.”

During my time with The Defender, I worked as the News & Features Editor. Through my role, I had the opportunity to cover a wide range of stories and topics. Some articles were more serious and sensitive, so I had to learn to approach those topics in a respectful yet informative way, while others were more fun and lighthearted. I also met new people and learned about new things.  

In one issue, I wrote a story about the neurodegeneration research that Saint Michael’s professors are doing on spiders. Considering the only science class I have taken is environmental science two years ago, this was very new information to me, but it was really interesting to learn about. In another issue, I wrote about holidays from different countries. Through this article I had the opportunity to meet new students and learn about different cultures and celebrations.

Courtesy photo of The Defender news team

The biggest thing the Defender gave me was a voice. I have not always been one to use my voice. In fact, during my first couple of years here, I was reluctant to do so. My experience with The Defender gave me the confidence to both use my voice and find a purpose for it. When I was part of The Defender, I was able to share important stories and help keep the campus informed. For the first time, I felt like I was really making a difference and contributing to the community.

It is important to note that The Defender is open to all majors, not just Digital Media and Communications majors, and it does not have any prerequisites.

“I want to encourage more students from a variety of majors with a diverse range of ideas and perspectives to participate in creating The Defender,” Swope said. “Even if you don’t think you want to be a journalist, you will gain amazing skills that can be applied to a wide range of professions.” 

This semester, a one credit pop-up class for The Defender is being offered. The course is focused on news production, including web design, page design, and illustration. The class will meet six times throughout the semester on Mondays from 3:15 to 5:40 p.m., and it has no prerequisites. Students can sign up for the class on KnightVision under ID-100-AB. 

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