Journalism department helps Amherst Wire to re-launch

By Catherine Ferris

Amherst Wire/Facebook

For University of Massachusetts students interested in writing for a news source, the Amherst Wire, a biweekly online magazine, is the newest opportunity for getting work published.

Rebecca Humphrey, senior journalism major and Wire editor-in-chief, and Jessica Troland, senior journalism major and editorial content manager, are just two students who have been chosen by journalism faculty supervisor and UMass professor B.J. Roche to start the Wire up again.

Professor Steve Fox originally created Amherst Wire as an independent study back in 2007, working with former students Eric Athes and Jackie Hai. The idea from the start was to showcase more long form writing, not duplicate stories from The Massachusetts Daily Collegian and other local news sources. The writing staff would take broad topics and examine them, with some of their first stories exploring issues like the Iraq War and the economy.

Today, the Wire is self-sustaining in terms of funding. There are professional accounts, like Vimeo, that need to be paid for, and these are covered by grant money given to Fox and Roche. The rest of the site is paid for through the “blood, sweat and tears from the students,” said Fox.

Presently, the Wire is solely online. Fox said that physical production of the Wire could happen, but that the possibility is “resting on the people who run it and what their goals are.”

When action began on restarting the Wire, advertising for students to get involved was done through cards, e-mails, posters and recruiting people through different classes. The Wire currently staffs about 11 people in its core group, with eight editors, a photographer and multimedia, but the number of people involved is steadily increasing. The Wire has a Flickr page, a Twitter with over 400 followers and a Facebook page, which has 250 “likes.”

Troland said the Wire is “for people who want to explore more magazine style writing and have the freedom to have that descriptive style of reading.” She said the writing in the Wire is different from newspaper writing because there is, according to her, more time to write the stories, more space and more freedom to be detailed. Students are able to bring stories they have written for class in for publishing in the Wire, as long as the stories are kept current and local.

“For me, Amherst Wire is a form of student voice,” Humphrey said. For Troland, editing and putting everything together may feel like a full time job, but she says it’s “definitely worth it.”

The writers have expectations, and “it’s been a huge learning curve for all of us,” said Humphrey. As far as abiding by journalistic standards, she said that the Wire staff “need the facts, and want things that are well reported.”

“I’m extremely proud of everyone who has been working with us,” Troland said. “We’ve all worked so hard.”

Catherine Ferris can be reached at [email protected]