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New campus fosters new approach to student news

10/14/2009 —

As the Penn State Lehigh Valley community continues to settle in to the new location in Center Valley, one group of students has seized the opportunity to reinvent an important campus source of information, the student newspaper.


In September, student journalists published the first issue of State of the Valley, formerly known as The Orchard Press.


"When our campus was located in Fogelsville, it was situated on approximately forty acres of former apple orchards, and writers developed the charming name The Orchard Press," says Nichola Gutgold, associate professor of communication arts and sciences, and faculty adviser to State of the Valley. "However, when the campus announced its move, we knew the name would no longer have the same meaning." 


Despite some student staff members wanting to keep it for nostalgia, Gutgold felt the paper needed a new name more fitting with the new space and location.  A contest was held for students to vote on the new name with two finalists featured:  State of the Valley and Penn State Press


"I was glad State of the Valley won because the play on words is fun and meaningful at the same time," said Gutgold. "We are the State University in the Lehigh Valley, but we also wish to bring our readers the state or the condition of life in the Valley, at least pertaining to our campus life and immediate community."


Along with a new name, the newspaper has undergone many changes to its content and how it is produced. In addition to some recognizable columns from The Orchard Press, new features including "Shopper Girl," and "Dan Goes to the Movies," have State of the Valley's managing editor, Vince D'Imperio, excited about the future of the paper.


"The former paper had a lot of content that focused on professors and alumni, and while there is still a place for those types of stories, we want to bring in more student-focused features," says D'Imperio '12, who plans to major in journalism when he transitions to University Park next year. "We have a really creative staff bringing some great ideas to the paper."


D'Imperio and the rest of the paper's staff are also enjoying their expanded roles in the production and layout of the paper, including having a dedicated space on campus to make it happen. 


"We now have a permanent location in the Student Clubs and Organizations Office [room 221], and we recently received training on the software used to lay out the paper," says D'Imperio. "This has given the staff a real sense of ownership over the process and made it a truly student-run newspaper."


In addition to reporting experience, State of the Valley also provides students with experience in the business side of keeping a newspaper running. Just like other newspapers, advertising space is available to on- and off-campus organizations, and the sale and placement of ads throughout the pages of the paper is coordinated by the students.


The staff also has an arsenal of real-world experience at their fingertips to guide them along the way. In addition to their adviser's expertise in the field of communications, State of the Valley staff members have the option to take a class in Newspaper Practicum that is run like an editorial department and co-taught by Gutgold and Glenn Kranzley. A familiar name in Lehigh Valley journalism, Kranzley is a 30-year veteran of the newspaper business and, until recently, served as vice president and opinion pages editor at The Morning Call in Allentown.


Even as they work on the next issue, the State of the Valley student staff and faculty collaborators also look ahead to the future of the paper.


“It is gratifying to serve as adviser to State of the Valley because we have an especially dedicated group of students who give me tremendous hope for the future of journalism and any career these young people pursue. With their enthusiasm and teachers like Glenn Kranzley, I believe that our students are getting a solid foundation in newspaper writing," says Gutgold.  "I have big goals for the future—I’d love to take the paper online and have a blog, too—but for now, getting a good paper out every two weeks will be our main priority.”

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