Student journalists work to harness Yik Yak's power for good

Popular app used to deliver campus news

A group of journalism students at the University of Florida (UF) is using the controversial social media app Yik Yak to share campus news, Meg Bernhard reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education's "Wired Campus."

Yik Yak lets users anonymously share messages with people in their immediate area. Most posts on Yik Yak are innocuous, but its anonymity seems to attract occasional outpourings of racism, misogyny, and cyberbullying. In one case, online harassment may have foreshadowed a student's murder.

Over the last few months, students from UF's Innovation News Center have used the platform to publish news on campus.

The 'new town square'

The news feed, called "Swamp Juice," is an attempt to connect with students "where they are," says Whitney Lavaux, a graduate student involved in the project. She says that new media are necessary for reaching today's students.

"Yik Yak's the new town square," agrees Matt Sheehan, director of the innovation center. "Media organizations and governing organizations … should be part of the conversations that are going on there."

The news feed is housed in a separate stream from the primary Yik Yak feed and includes a small note explaining its purpose. Swamp Juice is set up by special arrangement and facilitated by Yik Yak, but the company says it might pursue additional partnerships.

Professors hijack Yik Yak, spread positive messages

The feed covers a range of topics, such as campus news, local deals, and national stories.

Despite Yik Yak's reputation, Sheehan says cyberbullying largely has not been a problem at UF. "[I]n my observations of the [University of Florida] community in particular, it's a remarkably self-policing community," he says (Bernhard, "Wired Campus," Chronicle of Higher Education, 6/3).

Would Yik Yak news work at your school? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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