Students, staff, and faculty get together for the first Arrow meeting of the spring 2023 semester in Rust Media Center.

By Greta Solsaa

Emma Kratky did not realize the backlash that would ensue when she embarked on an exposé about the hazing culture of fraternities at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO).

Soon, the multimedia journalism student was lambasted and received a range of online threats online for her coverage. But, Kratky said this is one of her favorite stories she has written because the experience offered her an important lesson.

“One of my advisors actually told me that the more people speak out against what you're doing, the more it's raising an emotion, which is probably an indicator of truth,” said Kratky. “That story really stuck with me because it taught me that sometimes journalism can be very hard, and you just have to make sure you have your sources and story in order, and then once you publish it, I mean, it's out there for people to interpret in their own ways.”

At SEMO, students are empowered to do real journalism through an unique “hybrid public-private model,” according to Tamara Zellars Buck, multimedia journalism professor and chairperson of the Department of Mass Media.

Kratky said she was drawn to the school for its robust reporting opportunities.Kratky is now the editor-in-chief of the student paper, the Arrow.

“I have just really fallen in love with the way that you can tell journalistic stories in so many different formats, whether that be writing, design, video, audio,” said Kratky. “I like how versatile it is, and that's kind of why I've stuck with it.”

In 2011, a network of media outlets called Rust Communications partnered with the university to manage the Arrow. In reviving the outlet, Rust Communications and faculty at SEMO sought to preserve the student-led nature of the paper by offering students the opportunity to step into different roles of operating a news outlet.

“Students can gain practical, real-world experience in media, production or in journalism related fields. We have students who write articles, who take photos for the stories, and also design the page layout for the Arrow, so they can get a lot of good hands-on experience because this is something that they can do outside of the classroom,” said Eun Jeong Lee, the faculty advisor of the Arrow.

The Arrow functions as an internship and a job; students are offered an experiential learning experience while also being paid by the university. Students who are part of the Arrow also have access to a newsroom supplied with personal computers with Adobe software and cameras, tripods, lighting equipment. Advisors helps guide student journalists and elevate the professionalism of the student-produced content to the next level.

“From a university standpoint, it's good to have working professionals for the students to bounce things off of and to run certain business aspects and just to have people who've been in the industry for a long time to mentor [students]," said Bob Miller, content advisor of the Arrow.

The mentorship of faculty pays off. Students working at the Arrow have won  more than 50 awards a year at competitions such as Associated Collegiate Press, the College Media Association, the Missouri College Media Association, the Missouri Broadcast Educators Association and the American Advertising Federation. Buck said she is proud of her students for their accolades primarily because it’s symbolic of a larger triumph of the student journalism model at SEMO.

“My goal is simply to ensure that my program is producing highly proficient practitioners of the craft of journalism and not just journalism, but also of advertising, of media management, of all of those different roles that a student news organization touches,” said Buck, who previously served as the faculty advisor of the Arrow. “I want my students to be highly proficient, and they only get this by having a really strong affiliation with professionals.”

Lucas Presson, the assistant publisher and general manager of the Southeast Missourian and general manager for the Arrow, said the outlet is a seedbed for up-and-coming multimedia journalists.

“One thing that we say at Southeast Missourian is everything we do we measure by the test of truth and grace, and so we are really wanting to help develop the next generation of student media professionals,” said Presson. “[The Arrow] serves as this innovative lab.”

Through this successful private-public partnership model for student journalism, the Arrow provides students a platform to make a real impact in their community.

Kratky said another experience that stands out in her journalism career is a piece about the sudden and discret closing of SEMO’s LGBTQ+ center. Within 24 hours of publishing the story, the center reopened because of the outrage of the school community.

“I feel really proud of that story because I feel like my writing is the reason that it reopened,” said Kratky.

In-text image caption: Students, staff, and faculty get together for the first Arrow meeting of the spring 2023 semester in Rust Media Center.