Salahi and her student reporters visit one of their news partners, The Daily Item, located in Lynn, Massachusetts. Joseph Barrett (pictured left) — one of Salahi’s former journalism students — is now  a sports editor for the Item and oversees their newsroom’s collaboration with the college.

By Greta Solsaa

The walls of the journalism department corridor at Endicott College are strewn with newspaper clippings. Why? The students’ bylines.

“It's like our wall of fame,” said Lara Salahi, the associate professor of broadcast and digital journalism. “It's motivating to the students to actually see your name in physical print. It's one thing to kind of see your name online, but to actually touch a story that you've done. There's just nothing really better than that.”

Students from all disciplines can enroll in the beat reporting at Endicott College and have the opportunity to visit newsrooms, work with editors, and have their work published by 50 local news outlets..

One of those students is Nathaniel Ford—a first-year student interested in sports writing who has excelled in Salahi’s beat reporting course. Ford’s first story was on Lowell High School’s girls wrestling team. He said the process of learning about the sport and local community, along with getting his writing out there,  was rewarding.

“A program like this is extremely beneficial to both the students and the newsrooms, because it's the best way for us to get real experience and really see what being a journalist is all about," said Ford, adding " it just helps local newspapers cover more stories in their community.”.

Through the beat reporting course, students write directly for news outlets like Inside Lowell, which was founded by multimedia journalist Teddy Panos. Frustrated with the lack of opportunities for early career journalists, Panos partnered with Salahi’s class to publish student reporting with no cost to the outlet.

“There's really no there's no negative to it from my perspective. I just reap the benefits of the finished product. And it's unique—I think more institutions should be going that route [because] I think it's a much better internship experience,” said Panos.

Before he took on the role of editor at Essex Media, Joseph Barrett was a student in the beat reporting course. Barrett said his time at Endicott College, under the mentorship of Salahi, helped him develop skills such as time management and attention to detail that he uses as an editor.

When he was approached by Salahi to create a student journalism partnership with Essex Media, it felt like a “full circle” moment, said Barrett. Knowing first hand the benefit of the program for students interested in journalism, he said, "Yes." Barrett also supports student reporting because of the diversity of opinion and fresh outlook on issues that young people provide to stories.

“I think opportunities are always important because in any industry or any field or any major or anything, new perspective is always key,” said Barrett.

'A Sustainable Business Model'

Salahi was named a faculty champion by the Center for Community News last spring, and received seed money to get classroom resources, pay editors, and launch a new website Mass News Service to house student stories.

In academia, Salahi studies news-academic partnerships and said managing her own has been revelatory.

“I'm finding that it really is—in the right circumstances—a sustainable business model for community journalism,” said Salahi. “That's really important because I think journalism needs to diversify. The business models currently are either antiquated or are running out of steam, and so this is a great experiment in how higher education can play a role in sustaining journalism and be a partner in democracy.”

Salahi was careful not to misrepresent the state of news in her region. The area north of Boston in Massachusetts is definitionally not a news desert because there are regional outlets providing coverage.

“We're not really operating a silo, [but] we truly are filling the gap,” said Salahi. “I would say that there's definitely a news drought here [and] that our goal is to hydrate.”

While the partnership is in the first few months, Salahi would like to bring student reporting at Endicott College to new heights by creating the opportunities out of the classroom and during the summer to foster a year-round news service.

“We really are wanting to expand this into a full fledged operation,”said Salahi. “We're working towards creating a good cycle of stories where we work on both short-term, weekly-term, and then also more longform, investigative stories.”

At the end of the day, Salahi said the beat reporting class is worth running not only because of the professional pipeline the program creates for students, but because students learn about their local community and feel like they're working on something greater than themselves.

“I think it's really rewarding to see the next generation of journalists being able to contribute meaningfully to the news ecosystem,” said Salahi.

In-text image caption: Student poses with Endicott College journalism department's "wall of fame" highlighting published student reporting