Hamline University’s student run newspaper, The Oracle, received three awards at the Associated Collegiate Press’ Best of the Midwest convention in Minneapolis last February. The newspaper received first place in three different categories – best news photo, best news story and best in show for a four year weekly paper.
The school’s newspaper and students have thrived in spite of the fact that the university doesn’t have a journalism program.
David Hudson, English professor and advisor for The Oracle, explains why there is no such program. “Ultimately, we didn’t think it would serve our students best,” he says. Nearby, the University of St. Thomas has a formal journalism program, and through the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC), students at Hamline are able to take classes at St. Thomas. Hudson also says there is a way for students to put together a flexible major.
“Ultimately, our research showed us that students who wanted to pursue a career in journalism were not always best served by a degree in journalism,” Hudson says. He believes the best preparation for a journalist is a solid liberal arts education with various classes and a strong emphasis on writing, as well as practical experience.
This practical experience is offered by The Oracle. “I think one of the strengths of The Oracle, really, is that it’s not part of a journalism program,” Hudson says, adding that it draws upon students from a variety of disciplines who want to be there and want to do the newspaper.
Rikka Bakken, editor in chief for the second half of the 2016-17 school year, is an anthropology major but she has been involved in school newspapers since high school. She believes that a diversity of backgrounds helps the paper. “It’s good to have people who are involved in different things [subjects],” she says. It was Bakken’s story about a student who was unhappy going through the Title IX process at Hamline that won first place at the Best of the Midwest convention.
The Oracle has helped former students like Max Nesterak go on to bigger and better things. Nesterak only attended Hamline for his freshman and sophomore years, but he played a large part as The Oracle as associate news editor his first year, before moving to senior news editor. Now, Nesterak is the associate producer for Morning Edition on MPR News.
“Working for student newspapers, and The Oracle in particular, was the best decision I made [in order] to become a journalist,” he says.
Nesterak also believes student newspapers are the best way to help students become journalists because it is something that you have to be motivated to do. “Nobody’s really holding your hand,” he says.
This self-motivation is something that Hudson pointed out as well and says this is what sets the paper apart from a journalism program, allowing students to thrive. “We have regularly done as well or better [in newspaper conferences] than schools that are much larger than we are and have journalism programs connected with them,” Hudson says.