Last Friday, beating out top news outlets like The New York Times and Washington Post, a small team of student journalists at Arizona State University’s (ASU) student newspaper broke the story on the resignation of Kurt Volker, U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.
Volker’s departure followed the explosive release of the whistleblower complaint, which alleged Trump abused his office by seeking the Ukrainian president’s help in the 2020 election. Volker was a key State Department official involved in talks between Trump and the Ukrainian government.
Andrew Howard, managing editor of The State Press, said he knew about Volker’s position as the executive director of the McCain Institute, a think tank run by ASU, and decided to see if he could get information about him from his work with the university.
He reached out to ASU, and an unnamed university official confirmed Volker’s meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State and his eventual resignation.
“We knew that it was news and that we wanted to be the first to break it,” said 20-year-old Adrienne Dunn, managing editor at The State Press. “But none of us had any idea how big of a deal it would be for everyone in the newsroom.”
“I appreciate all the media attention we’re getting,” Howard told The Associated Press. “It’s great for our paper. It’s awesome that we proved student journalists can do the same reporting everyone else can.”
Howard told MSNBC, “We were just doing our jobs: localizing a national issue.”
The story attracted instant national attention for its content—but also for being published by a college journalist and newspaper. National Security Correspondent for The New York Times David Sanger tweeted, “It was pretty cool being clobbered by the undergrad editor of the Arizona State college paper.”
Student journalists and activists have been at the forefront of feminist issues recently. Sasha Urban of The Beacon Project, a student journalism initiative backed by the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, was quick to expose University of Southern California’s cover-up of Dr. Kelly’s sexual harassment.
And this past April, the Pulitzer Prize Board honored the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student newspaper The Eagle Eye for their obituaries of the 17 students and staff killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting. The administrator of the board, Dana Canedy, praised the students for “reminding us of the media’s unwavering commitment to bearing witness—even in the most wrenching of circumstances—in service to a nation whose very existence depends on a free and dedicated press.”
Congratulations to The State Press and to student journalists everywhere!