New partnership with The Worcester Guardian bolsters student opportunities, local journalism

March 18, 2024
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

Worcester State University is partnering with The Worcester Guardian, the city’s non-profit, independent news organization, to create student internships, strengthen the university’s growing journalism program, and expand local news coverage. 

The new agreement is a journalism first for the city’s only public four-year university and the media enterprise that is filling a void in the local news landscape. President Barry Maloney called the partnership a win for the university and the community.

“Worcester State University has a mission to serve the public, and we recognize the importance of The Worcester Guardian’s role in providing independent journalism for a healthy community,” Maloney said. “This collaboration will provide students with unique opportunities to learn real-world journalism skills in a professional newsroom. And at the same time, our student interns will give the local community more high-quality local journalism that is so critical for civic engagement and democracy.”

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce set the stage for The Worcester Guardian in September 2023 with a bold white paper, “Central Massachusetts: A story to be told – a new model for Worcester in delivering civic information and local news to Central Massachusetts.” The white paper points to the collapse of local news in Worcester, a trend affecting communities around the country as once thriving local newspapers have gone out of business or slashed their reporting staffs to bare bones. “Worcester is in need of a news injection,” according to the white paper.

“One of the solutions to reverse that retreat is non-profit independent journalism, and that is happening throughout the country,” said Dave Nordman, the former executive editor of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette who is serving as a consultant to The Worcester Guardian. “The Guardian is producing and creating a non-profit business model that will put more journalists on the ground in Worcester, reporting on things in Worcester. More journalists means more journalism, and it means people are better informed.”

Seven months in, The Guardian is growing quickly with 8,000 morning newsletter subscribers and more than 350 stories published. In February, The Guardian received federal tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The partnership with Worcester State is part of the organization’s early success, said Tim Loew, chair of The Worcester Guardian Board of Directors.

“I’m pleased our first major partner is Worcester State,” Loew said. “From our perspective, this is where we want to be. It’s key to the future of our community that we engage young people in this endeavor and this industry. They are going to be the ones telling these stories and doing this work for years to come.”

The partnership comes as the university is set to roll out a new multimedia journalism minor in the fall through the Communication and English departments. In addition, student journalists are in the process of introducing a student-led news site, The Wormtown Herald. The Communication Department’s Center for Community Media produces a talk show, podcasts, community video, and public service announcements. Together with the Guardian internships, the university is creating a dynamic media ecology, say faculty leaders.

“We want to start connecting more of these pieces together,” said Matt Ortoleva, chair of the English Department. “There is always a group of students interested in journalism. As a profession, even as a calling, journalism is profoundly important to our community and our democracies. Some students get that, and it is also our job to make other students see that. Journalism skills are applicable and transferable to a wide array of different careers and jobs.” 

As news organizations have closed down, traditional journalism internships have also vanished, said Dan Hunt, chair of the Communication Department. “When I speak with students interested in communication and journalism, I encourage them to generate clips. Now we have another opportunity where students can get a byline and participate in local journalism in a practical way.”

The relationship between The Guardian and Worcester State will be a dynamic one, says Nordman, with the newsroom’s journalists speaking to classes, working closely with faculty and providing feedback to students. 

“Because of the quality of Worcester State students, I’m looking forward to what kind of journalism can be produced,” Nordman said. “In the Worcester market, this is pretty unique. It validates us as a news organization that has a very bright future to partner with Worcester State to build something from the ground up that is going to be just terrific.”


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