The nation’s first online only college student publication

The bloggers at Reinventing College Media have moved to a new blog called Innovation in College Media and one of the first posts is a lengthy interview with James Patrick Gibson, editor of the Eastern Connecticut State University Campus Lantern. The Campus Lantern is thought to be the first college publication to stop its print edition in favor of online only.

That’s a bold move. And one I think we in California community colleges are a l-o-n-g-g-g-g-g way away from. Well, maybe one of us (Cypress) is close to making that move.

Batman and RobinThe interview covers the thought process and impact of the decision to scuttle the print editIon. The paper went from no online presence to completely online. Holy cow, Batman!

“We realized that as future journalists, we could not ignore the facts and trends that the industry is showing. It’s hard work out there for newsprint…,” Gibson says.

The interview also includes the strategy the publication used to introduce the change to the campus. Clever idea. But the changeover has not be received well universally.

While Gibson says that students are reading the online publication, I doubt it. It seems to me that the hardest part of going online is getting the readers to follow you. A panel from the recently completed Online News Association conference suggested that it is hard to catch the attention of the younger audience even with web pages and blogs. When I look at the site stats for our Cerritos College Talon Marks I see a whole different audience. While it is easy to go online (and hard to do right), it’s a big Internet out there and our brands might not draw readers away from the MySpaces/Facebooks and YouTubes out there. Our print editions are handy to pick up when students are wandering campus and are away from their computers.

I still believe we have to marry the print and online editions. Use the print edition to drive an audience to the online edition. And to do that you are going to have to tell stories in compelling new ways, not simply shovel content from the print edition over to the online. That’s going to be tough for us all to swallow. We’ve got to learn those new ways and they are still being invented. But we have the means to be on the cutting edge of the industry. Because of the subsidies many of us get from our campuses, we don’t have the same financial contraints as the industry, which is is a do or die position. We can lead the way in training tomorrow’s journalists.

Yes, we have to hold true to the basic tenets of good journalism, but we have to start embracing the potential of the new technology and start experimenting with the new story forms.


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