When Editor & Publisher Magazine (E&P) opened the nomination process for the yearly "25 over 50" salute, one entry from Emily Metzgar, a director at the School of Media & Journalism at Kent State (Ohio) University, stated that Kevin Dilley, the director of Kent State Student Media, “Has built one of the largest media operations you’ve never heard about.” Emily wrote E&P that “Kevin wrangles a $750,000 budget annual budget, 400+ students each semester, nine distinct media outlets, one business office and 30+ platforms.” She also mentioned that Dilley tackled challenges stemming from COVID-19, where he was able to keep the student-run TV station on the air even while being directed to operate remotely.
There is no question that Kevin Dilley deserved to be recognized as a "25 over 50" in the September edition of E&P Magazine. However, after some investigation into the many successful ongoing programs that Kent State Student Media has developed and the numerous awards their journalism continues to win, E&P decided to go one step further and introduce you to the leader of this large campus-based media operation.
Kevin Dilley was the guest on this 156th episode of “E&P Reports” vodcast, discussing Kent State Student Media with Mike Blinder, E&P’s publisher, and Victoria Holmes, an E&P reporter.
“The Student Media experience inspires the young professionals with whom I work every day to find new ways to solve old problems in media,” Dilley said. “I think that is how young professionals want to be involved. They don’t want to stand in line, but to start to make an impact from their first day working at a news outlet.”
Student Media launched the Flash Lab Innovation Initiative a few years ago to promote innovative thinking. Students who wish to participate develop an idea to create content, engage with a specific audience or generate revenue. They can then apply for a grant of as much as $1,000 to pursue their idea during a semester.
In response to a question from Holmes about what types of stories excite journalism and media students, Dilley said they were the same as most newspapers and media outlets, including features and some investigative journalism.
“We don’t have much breaking news on a university campus, but we had a difficult story to tell during the first week of classes when a student died in an accident. Our student journalists understood the gravity of the story, but they were energized,” Dilley said.
According to Dilley, a vital element of the student journalism experience at Kent State is a written policy of no prior review of published stories. Students receive strong support from the administration and the School of Media and Journalism to learn to be responsible, independent journalists.
Much of the conversation also focused on how students are being prepared for the business of news as well as the professional environment in which they will be working.
“One of the topics I share with students is the pace of change in the news business. We have to be nimble and agile, and ready to change. It’s certainly a concept being taught in classes. There’s an openness to exploring those topics so they can land a job,” Dilley said.
Dilley added that he occasionally must criticize students about their work or professional mannerisms, but with an empathetic teaching approach. He emphasizes that criticism in a working newsroom could be very different. The internship program is another opportunity for students to prepare for that real-world environment.Dilley also shared some of the lessons he learned during his career. Fact-checking was one of the first. As Dilley put it, you don’t take what people, even those closest to you, say for face value.
“I discovered journalism in junior high school because of my teacher, Sue Welker,” Dilley said. “I was inspired by the law and ethics behind journalism — the reason why journalism is an important part of our democracy. It’s why I went into this field and help support in any way I can.”
In this 156th episode of E&P Reports, meet Kevin Dilley, the director of Kent State University Media, where we explore the work the 400+ students produce for 10 distinct media outlets and 30+ media platforms. Plus, E&P Publisher Mike Blinder and contributing journalist Victoria Holmes ask Dilley how he feels about the future of News Publishing as being one of the educators that helps today's students become tomorrow's industry leaders.
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