12 Things Community College newspapers could do to survive

It is sometimes easy for college journalism programs to feel that we are insulated from the travails of the newspaper industry because … Well, we ARE insulated. We are artificially funded and we don’t face the same expense models of having to pay our employees.

But if we are to best prepare our students for the future, even at print publications, we have to pay attention. Indeed, we should be proactive in leading the education of our students not for what jobs existed yesterday or exist today, but those which will exist tomorrow when they either enter the workforce or learn they have to adapt to a changing workplace.

Here’s a good list from Mashable of 12 things newspapers should be doing. Some don’t apply to us, others are opportunities for us. See the full, original discussion at http://bit.ly/xfSWt .

1. PUTTING WEB FIRST AND REPORTING FROM MULTIPLE PLATFORMS


That might seem like a no-brainer, but this fact is a double-edged sword. Newspapers are often still treating their websites as an afterthought because their advertising revenue is largely still coming from print. At the same time, the shift to getting more revenue from websites won’t happen until the websites are the first priority.

We can and should be doing this. To believe that our students don’t need to know how to do this is ignoring the facts. To think this is ALL our students need to know is also ignoring reality. But at least this is something we can realistically work on in our programs. Without ignoring the nuts and bolts of what we do, I think we should herald the experiments we try more.

2. GO NICHE


Duh, we do that for the most part anyway.

3. OFFER UNIQUE CONTENT IN PRINT


We need to stop treating their websites as a dumping ground for print stories and treat each somewhat independently, carefully selecting the stories better suited for each media.

4. JOURNALISTS AS CURATORS AND CONTEXTUALIZERS


Journalists need to move away from being “processors of information” to contextualizers, Bradshaw said. In the old industrialized model, he explained, journalists simply processed raw material into an article or a broadcast in a market that they also had a monopoly on, but in today’s networked model the raw material is available to the former audience, which is taking on the role of the reporter, as are the sources themselves.

5. REAL-TIME REPORTING INTEGRATION


To Twitter or not to Twitter. To integrate Facebook or not. To blog o not. These are not the questions. We need to make use of the social network tools of the day and teach our students TO BE RELEVANT in doing so.

6. INTERNET CULTURE: STARTUP VS. CORPORATE


How many of us continue to run our operations the same way we’ve always done? Oh sure, we might talk about changes, but do we have a start-up mentality? I suggest with the economic situation being what it is that we look at our artificial financing structure as venture capital that could dry up.

7. ENCOURAGE INNOVATION


Part of having a startup culture includes an environment that encourages innovation. Again, JACC should herald innovation where it takes place. Realize that more will fail than will succeed. Knowing that, we need to give recognition to those bold enough to try. BUT, and this is a big but, we must not fall into the trap of thinking the innovation is god and trumps our basic mission.

8. CHARGING FOR QUOTES IS NOT THE ANSWER


Okay, in the original article this is talking about AP and the big boys. If you think at the college level that we’re serious partners in this discussion you’ve been ingesting something probably illegal. But our students need to know and understand this discussion.

9. INVESTING IN MOBILE: E-READERS OR SMARTPHONES?


We should give consideration to how our electronic versions translate to smart phones, so many of our students have them that if we can promote our content through them we can build relevant audiences perhaps stronger than relevant web audiences.

I recently bought a Kindle DX, partially so I could experience the end-use of the newspaper-through-ebook model. My initial reaction is very cool, I still prefer print for a lot of reasons, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’ll blog on it later. Am interested to see the new Apple tablet, if it materializes, but at double the already expensive Kindle cost, I suspect that it will be slow to have an impact.

10. COMMUNICATING WITH READERS


Think letters to the editor on steriods. We need to put more effort into this. Looks like the future won’t be sitting around waiting for the letters to maybe show up. We need to make it easier and more relevant.

11. BUILDING COMMUNITY


You’d think we understand that at a COMMUNITY college. But we really don’t. The weird thing is that we’re in a perfect position to benefit from understanding and building this.

12. TO PAY WALL OR NOT TO PAY WALL — THAT IS THE QUESTION


Again, we’re not really part of this discussion. But our students need to be aware. There is the real problem of how will the industry or our students make a living doing this if we don’t work our some kind of reasonable income stream to replace the fading advertising model.

WILL WEBSITES REPLACE NEWSPAPERS?

Regardless of what happens in the industry, print editions will not be replaced at our level anytime soon. What IS realistic for us to consider is whether our schools continue to see our product as something they are willing to continue to fund if the revenue stream of “butts in the seat” continue to be our income model. While the print edition will continue its effectiveness on the campus for many years, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the answer will be “no” and the publication will fold if it does not build a multi-platform audience. Web sites are only the first step, but not if all of it is simply a duplicate of print. More and more I think social media and mobile delivery will be our best friends. The print product will continue to be our bedrock for training, but have less relevance as a delivery mode.

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