Student newspaper reports from inside the national Larry Nassar story
News broke in September 2016 about allegations of sexual misconduct against Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor and a MSU osteopathic physician. Marie Weidmayer was in the small courtroom listening to women of all ages come forward and directly confront their attacker about the abuse they endured. She was only a sophomore and had just become a reporter for The State News.
Now, Weidmayer is the editor-in-chief of the 42-person newsroom where she covered the Nassar trial, the 2016 Presidential election and the typical campus coverage found in a college newspaper. She spoke with Gateway Journalism Review about the importance of student press, covering national news on campus and her hopes for after graduation.
What was it like covering the Larry Nassar trial?
I was in the courtroom for six of the nine days of his sentencing. Through that, I live tweeted the coverage, produced stories and coordinated with people in the newsroom to make sure we had constant covering. Before the sentencing, I was in Grand Rapids for his federal sentencing as well with another reporter. I had been covering since September 2016 when it first broke. The sentencing was one of the final steps to the news coverage for Nassar.
How was covering the trials as a student journalist different?
As a student journalist, I was able to get a read of what students at MSU were thinking on campus. That set us apart from the national media because we were plugged in to how people were feeling. As an editorial board, we made a call for then-President Simon to resign a week before she did. She resigned after our editorial, and we were the first to call for her resignation because we knew as a newsroom and as students on campus that everyone was upset with the way she was handling it. As a student journalist, I was able to get a unique perspective on everything. I also had to balance classes.
Jan. 20 was Student Press Freedom Day; why do you think student media important?
We can give a unique perspective. We have a view of students that are affected by our stories in their daily lives rather than the professional journalists who aren’t affected by new proposals for Title IX regulation, faculty losses and that kind of stuff. Professional journalists don’t have the day-to-day impact whereas students are impacted by these things.
How has your time at your college newspaper helped you grow?
My time at the State News has helped me grow because it has taught me invaluable reporting skills. I’ve learned to cover breaking news, interact with sources and anonymous sources. I’ve learned so many different skills. It’s prepared me for when I graduate in May; the real world.
What are you excited for after graduation?
I’m most excited for is to be able to do journalism full time and not have classes or homework to do. I’m also just really excited to tour a new community and start reporting and helping people out there. I really do love covering courts and crimes. I also want to be a correspondent in the Middle East.
Molly Walsh is a correspondent for GRJ based in Chicago, where she is a student at Columbia College Chicago. You can find her on Twitter @molly_walsh.