College students can do amazing things.

I know

I’ve seen them make magic happen.

In 2006, not long after I came back to Franklin College—I am an alumnus—to become the director of the Pulliam School of Journalism, I took a team of students to Indianapolis to cover the first month of the Indiana General Assembly’s legislative session.

My motivation for doing so was something akin to desperation. Franklin was and is a small and intimate campus, a place where people form lifelong bonds of attachments.

Those close ties are a source of immense strength for the college but they also could present a barrier to the successful preparation of professional journalists. I joked in frustration at the time that I was having trouble getting my students to stop interviewing their roommates for stories.

Taking them to the Statehouse would take them out of their comfortable campus existence and prod them to explore new realms. In the process, I hoped they would learn more not just about the larger world but about their own capacities, which they often doubted.

That first year, we went to the Statehouse with a crew of seven. A good friend volunteered some office space in downtown Indianapolis out of which we could operate.

I talked to some old friends in the news business to see if they would use the stories we sent. They said they would. We asked only that the student who wrote the story receive a byline and that the college be acknowledged in some way.

That first January was eye opening for everyone involved. We worked long hours, often starting at 8 or 9 in the morning and not filing the last of our stories until midnight or later.

But I noticed something. Under the daily pressure of reporting, the students’ writing and critical thinking skills grew at an exponential rate. Even better, they began to see why the things they learned in the classroom were important, so they came back to campus more focused and determined.

There also was this bonus: They began teaching other.

Those lifelong ties went from strong to unbreakable.

That first year, we sent stuff to five news outlets. The next year, the number jumped to 20.

By 2008, I was getting requests from editors and news directors to see if we could continue sending stories after the end of January. I said that wasn’t possible because both the students and I had to be back in the classroom for the start of the second semester.

That didn’t end the discussion.

Those editors and news directors asked if paying us to provide for the service would change things.

It did.

We launched as a year-round service in 2011 and became The revenues we generated from news organizations and individual subscriptions went to the students who did the work.

That support made it possible for quite a few kids to stay in school.

We grew to serve 35 newsgathering partners and an audience that could number in the hundreds of thousands. We were one of Indiana’s largest news operations.

But that was not the best thing about

No, the finest result was what the students accomplished. They won award after award in the toughest categories of professional journalism competitions, while competing against seasoned journalists.

They went on to build careers in journalism, working everywhere from CNN to smalltown newspapers. They also went on to practice law, serve in government, become entrepreneurs and do other important work.

They brought honor to themselves, their college and their professions.

A few days ago, we announced a big development for A generous grant from Lumina Foundation makes it possible for us to take down our paywall and provide our stories at no cost for every person and every news outlet in Indiana. will be part of an ambitious undertaking called the Indiana Local News Initiative, which is coordinated by the American Journalism Project. Its goal is to provide news coverage for parts of the state that have none and report on people and communities that often go unnoticed.

The students who work for now will work on an even higher stage before an even bigger audience.

How will they respond to this challenge?

Well, here’s what these past years have taught me.

College students can do amazing things.

I know.

I’ve seen them make magic happen.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.

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