It’s Not All Black and White Anymore
For 97 years, The Daily Bruin’s income from print advertising sales paid for a majority of the University of California Los Angeles Student Media, which publishes the daily print newspaper, a news website, radio station, and seven newsmagazines on campus. In 2007, the newspaper drew in almost $1.9 million of print advertising sales, but in 2015, that number dwindled to only $635,000 in advertisements sold — a dramatic 67 percent decrease. Former editor in chief Sam Hoff knew it was time for a change before seeing his paper cut back on its printing schedule. He helped form a referendum asking the UCLA student body to support a $3 quarterly fee that would benefit all student media on campus. Of the campus that voted, more than 60 percent agreed to the fee and the referendum saved The Daily Bruin from cutting back a day or more of printing — but more than 10 college newspapers in Syracuse, New York, Walnut, California, Baltimore, and around the United States aren’t so lucky.
Thanks to the growth of social media and accessible internet, fewer newsreaders pick print products and prefer the 24-hour feed at their fingertips. According to the Pew Research Center, 6 in 10 Americans get their news on social media, and Nielsen results found young adults ages 18 to 24 are three and four times more likely than older adults to collect news from Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. So as students on college campuses breeze by full newsstands with their eyes locked on their phones, the responsibility lies in campus newspapers to find ways to embrace digital media while still holding on to their print editions.
Student print newspapers also face the challenge of creating alternative sources of revenue before they go extinct. Cutting back on printing to save money illustrates what is happening with national print newspapers, and the young publications can learn from the wider trend, says Rick Edmonds, Poynter media business analyst and leader of news transformation. He thinks the death of college newspapers isn’t going to happen in the next month or even year, unlike hundreds of city newspapers that have been eaten up by national conglomerates, but there is no way to stop the print product from going away. “You have to be developing digital as fast as you can, but at the same time, doing what’s possible for print. I don’t know if there’s any miracle cure to keep the print paper strong,” he says.
Syracuse University’s independent student newspaper The Daily Orange hacked its Friday editions in 2009 in order to save money and stay afloat as advertising revenue steadily decreased. Current editor in chief Justin Mattingly says management took a look at their print outreach this school year and increased the number of special edition sports papers that are handed out at sports games on weekends. “Those are the moneymakers, but they’re going to parents and locals, not students,” he says.
Mattingly knows that students don’t pick up the free print paper everyday, but the publication earns thousands of unique visitors a month who come to the site just from the Syracuse area. An older generation reads the print edition, but it’s important to not forget about the audience because that’s where the money comes from, he says. As a strategy to keep their older readers interested, The Daily Orange is expanding its print circulation into the greater city of Syracuse and focusing less on the school it serves — even though the stories focus on students and administration. “It’s all about finding what works and what attracts advertisers,” Mattingly says. “Then we can stick around for as long as possible — in print and on web.”
The Daily Orange’s general manager, Mike Dooling, joined the staff full time in April after leaving his 20-year old marketing job at the shrinking local Syracuse newspaper, The Post Standard. Dooling believes college newspapers will take the place of local print newspapers in the next two to three years because college publications have more creative avenues for revenue besides advertising. Sponsoring local fairs, hosting properties for landlords on its website, and a future golf tournament are in the works for the nonprofit paper, but a large percentage of their financial aid comes from alumni donations. If no money is left for printing in the next 10 years, Dooling says The Daily Orange will at least survive online, especially because college students live on their phones. “There’s always going to be news, there’s just going to be different forms of it,” he says.
“There’s always going to be news, there’s just going to be different forms of it,” Mike Dooling says.
Mariel Klein, president of The Harvard Crimson, agrees with Dooling. She believes college newspapers are more important now than ever due to fake news sources and important topics such as rape culture on university campuses, and are more accessible thanks to technology. The Harvard Crimson, which holds the title of the United States’ oldest published daily newspaper, relies almost exclusively on advertising for its income. But, Klein says her staff knows that they may not be able to hold out for much longer due to the increase of their web presence and the difficulty of advertising on web. Klein argues that without worrying about budget problems, the staff is able to focus on serious issues and stories on campus.
In November, The Harvard Crimson staff writer Andrew Duehren discovered a “scouting report” binder the men’s 2012 soccer team created about women based on their sexual appeal and physical attractiveness on a public Google group. Klein says it exposed a culture of misogyny in not only the soccer team because the tradition was passed down to current players, but throughout the athletic community. Harvard University cancelled the men’s soccer team 2016 season as retribution. The story spread nationally, and The New York Times credited The Harvard Crimson with its initial findings. Klein says their story sparked conversations on Harvard’s campus about the treatment of women and inspired investigations into collegiate sports teams across the country for similar practices.
Despite the few institutions like The Harvard Crimson and Brown University’s The Brown Daily Herald surviving mostly advertising revenue alone, papers such as The Daily Pennsylvanian at the University of Pennsylvania are shifting their editorial and business focus on an online presence in January 2017. Current editor in chief Lauren Feiner says her role will split into four different positions: senior news editor, executive editor, digital director, and print director. The idea behind the change is to create more content and publish as soon as possible online, instead of sticking to the strict print schedule The Daily Pennsylvanian relies on now. To assist in online ads and alternate revenue streams, the new board created the inaugural position of development project leads on the business side of the paper. Each person ran for the position on the platform of a project that could make $10,000 in profitable revenue in two years. Creating sponsored guides around different events in the University of Pennsylvania area became the winning idea pitched by the newest member of the business team, and the staff is optimistic is will bring in thousands of dollars from advertisers in the spring.
Although Feiner worries about losing her older audience and physical presence on campus by concentrating on the website, she says administration and faculty will read the paper in any form, no matter what. “Administration needs to respond and see what’s going on, so they’ll find it one way or another,” she says. “But I think you do a lose a presence on campus with students, because I think that’s what separates a college newspaper from college clubs, because we’re ever-present in a tangible way.” To her, the most important role of college publications is to keep administrators and decision-makers in check. If student journalists do not question and call out the power that runs their schools, no one else will.
SAC.Media, formerly known as The Mountaineer newspaper, already completed what The Daily Pennsylvanian is trying to do online. In 2015, the Mt. San Antonio College newspaper dropped its print and online editions because students weren’t reading the content, which contained profiles on faculty, sports updates, reviews, and traditional news stories. Faculty adviser Toni Albertson and current editor in chief Talin Hakopyan discussed a revamp of the entire publication in order to spark interest in students again. They created SAC.Media, a news blog filled with curated student content, per the help of a partnership with the free platform Medium. Buzzfeed-like stories such as “20 Times When It’s Appropriate to ‘Thank Obama’” and quirky videos like “What The Fuck is in My Mouth?” bring in clicks from their target audience: students. The first few months of SAC.Media drew in thousands of more views than the old Mountaineer site saw in a long time. “This is the future. Print is time-consuming and expensive, but it just doesn’t fit our brand anymore,” Hakopyan says. “We’ve had people walk out because they’re offended that we’re against print, but print is very much dead.”
The editorial team still reports on-campus news through their Twitter account, @SAConScene, and will launch a new SAConScene.Media website in the spring to focus on local news near the community college. Instead of Medium, the site will be hosted on Arc, The Washington Post’s content management system, for a brief trial run. The goal of SAConScene is to help provide with students what they need to know, compared to what they want to know. In April, the student publication reported accusations that Mt. San Antonio College administration covered up an on-campus rape. The story was one of the most thoroughly reported by Hakopyan and her staff, and it is one of the most read stories The Mountaineer or SAC.Media has published. The ongoing case will be updated on the new news platform, so readers can differentiate between the two SAC publications: the fun, listicle-heavy clicks verses the breaking news site.
Despite the major shift from print to online journalism, student editors worry about losing the one place they have to learn real-life experience before entering the workplace. Roy Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech and associate professor of newspaper and online journalism at Syracuse University, says his four years working at The Daily Orange handed him internships and helped him snatch a writing job just weeks after graduation. Although he’s a die-hard fan of print journalism, he recognizes it will not stick around forever. Gutterman even considers unsubscribing from The Post Standard because he says by the time it arrives he has already read most of the stories online. He believes publications like The Daily Orange and The Daily Bruin have hard work set ahead for them to keep readership up, evolving into the digital age with apps and online content, and constantly searching for new sources of income. “Eventually when the printed publication goes away, how do people know what to read? How do you make a website vital to everyone on campus? As much as it pains me, it’s just the evolution of the industry, losing print,” he says. Gutterman says the art of journalism will always be around, but print journalism won’t last forever — and there’s no way to stop it from disappearing.
Here are five articles written and reported by college newspapers that gained attention around the world. Without student reporters, these stories would not be told.
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