From PR Tool to Actual News Outlet

August 20: In a recent interview, Peter Arrabal, incoming editor of The Minaret student newspaper at the University of Tampa, shared the secrets of the paper’s transformation from “PR tool” to “actual news” outlet.


A portion of the Q&A:


How did students receive The Minaret when you first joined the newspaper?


Arrabal: It really wasn’t picked up all that much. I mean, we probably printed 1,500-2,000 copies a week, and there would always be newspapers laying around. We didn’t write about anything people cared about. It was like we were like a PR tool for the school. We never had anything interesting; we just said, “Oh, this happened. That happened.” Event reviews, sports write-ups — there was nothing that made you want to pick up the newspaper.


How has that changed?


Arrabal: We shifted toward having people do actual news and having people on beats. We have a Facebook account, and we get all kinds of story ideas that come through that. That’s probably been one of our biggest tools for recruiting and getting people registered to our website, and getting story ideas and stuff. People screw around on Facebook all day, and they see our name on there, and we’re always adding people and putting out questions to people and grab sources through that. People send us messages like, “Hey, you should look into this.” It used to be we would just take a story and assign it to a reporter. Half the time they wouldn’t do anything with it. Now we’ve got an investigative team and all kinds of different ways to go after these stories. Now we have stuff people care about.


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