Five Questions For … Lexi Belcufine, Editor in Chief of the Daily Collegian on Covering the Sandusky Scandal
(In light of Friday’s verdict convicting longtime Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky of multiple felonies related to child molestation, EWA is reposting public editor Emily Richmond’s December 2011 interview with Lexi Belculfine, editor in chief of the Daily Collegian. To see the student-run newspaper’s special coverage of the verdict and what’s next for the campus, click here.)
The student-run newspaper of Penn State has been busy in the wake of the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach accused of molesting boys. EWA spoke with the Daily Collegian editor in chief Lexi Belculfine about how her staff is handling the coverage.
1. While you are editor in chief, you are also a student. How are you balancing your work and your studies?
I’ve had to miss some classes because I’m essentially living in the newsroom – my journalism professors have been very supportive. I just think what we’re doing is so important for the Penn community that it deserves my full attention. We’ve gotten tremendous support from Collegian alumni, as well.
As far as the difficulty of being emotionally close to the story, I’ve been so impressed with the staff of the Daily Collegian. By and large, people have been able to separate themselves from their personal views and just focus on the work.
2. What’s been the student reaction to your coverage?
It’s been a mixed bag of support and disapproval. With social media people express their opinions in different mediums now, so actual letters have sort of gone out of style. But with this situation we’ve had an influx of letters to the editor, and I think that’s really positive.
I think we have a problem with news literacy among some of our readers, who just don’t understand the purpose of what we do. I’ve opened up emails that have said I need to resign immediately because I’m not promoting ‘positivity’ at Penn State.
3. Were you surprised by the campus riots in the wake of the scandal?
It’s unfortunate, but I wasn’t surprised at all. I’m a senior, and in the time I’ve been here there have been three riots and multiple disturbances. (In addition to the most recent incident, students rioted in 2008 when Penn State beat Ohio State in football, and earlier this year following the death of Osama Bin Laden.)
We were bracing ourselves this time, we knew there was a toxic environment and there was possibility of it turning into a riot. We’ve gotten a ton of feedback from students who are incredibly frustrated. They realize Penn State is under some of the most negative light it’s ever been under, and this kind of pointless destructiveness doesn’t do anything to help.
4. While the Sandusky scandal obviously has the front burner for now, what are some of the other pressing campus issues for your peers?
There is a concern that tuition for Penn State is growing at a rate that is just insane, for lack of a better word. It’s grown about 3.8 percent every year. Then there’s the fear we’re not going to get jobs. That sentiment encapsulates so many problems facing college students.
As for the Sandusky story, I don’t think this is going away anytime soon. I’m the editor-in-chief through May, and as far as I’m concerned this is my number one concern until I graduate. The far-reaching impact of this story, and the impact it’s having on Penn State, exceeds anything else that’s happening on campus.
5. Has this experience influenced your career plans?
We have about 215 people on staff this semester, at least half want to be journalists. This experience has solidified my belief that I want to be in a newsroom for the rest of my life. I think a lot of people around here would say something similar. We’re going to walk away from this experience with total resolve.
This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.