Ross Investigates

Michigan Journalism Students Filling a Void in Ann Arbor, and Doing It Well

Local newspapers may be in decline in much of the country, but student journalists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are working hard to keep it alive for the 121,000 residents of their college town.

Ever since Ann Arbor News closed its daily print edition in 2009, the university’s student newspaper, the Michigan Daily has been serving both the school and the local community of Ann Arbor, as the only daily publication.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but we take it very seriously. It’s a privilege too,” said Maya Goldman, the 21-year-old Editor-in-Chief, on the Brian Ross Investigates program on the Law&Crime Network. With a staff of 300 reporters, most not old enough to legally buy a drink, Goldman has been running a robust operation, nothing less than any established metropolitan newspaper. Each day, the daily produces multiple sections, which includes sports, opinion, arts, news, photo, podcast along with a weekly magazine supplement.

Student journalism has proven to be especially challenging on some campuses this year. The student newspaper at Northwestern University — acclaimed for its Medill School journalism program — drew criticism from professional journalists after apologizing to students who denounced their fair coverage of a student demonstration.

But despite no formal journalism curriculum, the Michigan journalists have quickly learned to stand up to pressure and break stories with far-reaching impact.

Sammy Sussman, a sophomore in the School of Music with no prior experience in investigative reporting, overcame divided loyalties when he received a tip alleging the sexual misconduct of a veteran music professor, Stephen Shipps. Sussman went to uncover four decades of allegations and published a 6,500-word story, which eventually led to the professor’s resignation.

“There were definitely sleepless nights in the process…some faculty members pushed back at me for taking on this reporting and damaging the brand,” Sussman told Brian Ross. “But the amount of alleged abuse that we were able to uncover made me less worried about what we were doing,” Sussman added, while Goldman explained that Shipps’ story going to press was “never a question,” as the paper receives no funding and operates independently from the university.

Breaking Stephen Shipps’ story, which has since received widespread national coverage, “really inspired a lot of other people…to want to do more of that,” said Goldman.

The University of Michigan declined to comment for this story, citing university policy.

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