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Involvement in student media can be one of the most important stepping stones for aspiring journalists.

To help students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and other schools better navigate journalism’s transforming landscape, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) recently announced the formation of the Wisconsin College Media Association (WCMA).

The WNA dedicates itself to protecting journalistic rights in Wisconsin and currently represents 222 different publications throughout the state. The formation of the WCMA will extend the values of the WNA as well as provide resources such as scholarships and internships for student journalists, according to WNA.

UW Oshkosh journalism professor Vincent Filak has been named the first president of WCMA. Filak also serves as adviser to the University’s student newspaper, the Advance-Titan.

“I think the most important thing the WCMA can do for students is to help them find other people with similar interests in the field of journalism,” Filak said. “There is usually only one publication per campus, so it’s unclear to the staff if certain editorial stances, management issues or administrative concerns are ‘normal.; What the WCMA will do is provide a network of publications throughout the state so that students can meet with peers, discuss these kinds of issues and learn from each other.”

Filak said the WCMA will connect student journalists in a variety of ways, starting with increasing attendance at WNA events.

“We will also be working on fine-tuning the annual Better Newspaper Contest that WNA sponsors, in hopes of drawing more entries and entries from a broader array of schools,” Filak said. “The talent is out there and we want to do more to showcase it.”

The WCMA also aims to increase the educational and vocational resources available to student journalists.

“The WNA currently provides webinars on many topics of interest, offers advice to member publications and provides a variety of key services for those publications,” Filak said. “With WNA essentially allowing this organization to operate under its umbrella, students now have access to all these opportunities and more.”

Filak said he wants the organization to act as a sounding board that members and advisers of student media can look to for advice. His first goal as president is to make sure college newspapers are aware of the organization and to promote its resources.

“The idea I had and I plan to do is to touch base with every school that has a publication and see if the students and advisers at these places want to engage with us,” Filak said. “My hope is that we get a lot of schools interested and active.”

Filak said he will do whatever it takes to make the WCMA a success even if that means personally driving to universities across the state.

Membership in the WCMA will be free, an incentive that Filak hopes will spur excitement and involvement in the organization.

“Students need these kinds of opportunities to meet other people in the same boat so they know they aren’t alone,” Filak said. “With the WNA connection, our members can meet with the people at the next level who are looking for interns and job candidates. The networking possibilities are endless and this can be a great benefit to both the students in the WCMA and the folks in the WNA.”

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