Optimist Student Newspaper First to be iPad-Friendly: Huge Step or So What?

The Optimist student newspaper at Abilene Christian University is promoting itself as the first campus publication worldwide that will be iPad-friendly.

As the U.S. News & World Report‘s fantastic Paper Trail blog noted in the post that broke this story: “The gadget will be available in 60 days, and a team of faculty and student researchers is planning for the Optimist to be ready by then. The Optimist wants to expand its reach on campus, where it already publishes a print and an online product in addition to making content available via an iPhone application.”

The quick innovation call-to-arms for the paper and J&MC department at ACU is admirable.  A few bigger picture questions:

1) If carried out successfully, is this moon landing, one giant leap for collegemediakind territory? Does this ascend the Optimist into the student media innovation heavens, alongside such luminaries as Justin Hall (first blogger), Jennifer Ringley (first lifecaster), and The Tech at MIT (first newspaper online)?  Or is it a bit less exciting- like the student publication that can claim the first Twitter account or the first video uploaded to YouTube?

2) Is an iPad push premature?  And with student news teams perennially understaffed and overworked, is this the proper use of students’ time and the school’s support and resources?  Or is it more an innovation-for-innovation’s-sake PR campaign?  One perceptive commenter on the Optimist story announcing its iPad intentions argued, “This is such a waste of time.  It’s just Apple’s attempt to cash in on its followers. The Optimist should spend its resources improving its journalism instead of embracing pointless technology.  Instead of being first in time . . . how about being first in quality?  That is something to brag about.”

My take: Good luck!  For the sake of their peer publications and schools, I hope the Optimist and ACU embrace openness in describing the ups-and-downs of the development process and the challenges involved in the initial rollout.

Check back in roughly 60 days…

3 Responses to “Optimist Student Newspaper First to be iPad-Friendly: Huge Step or So What?”
  1. Maguire says:

    I think it is really adventurous of them to take this technological leap, but it is great that they are willing to go all out and be the first to fully run on and test the i-Pad.
    This little piece of technology may be the one creation to change the future in many ways.

    There is a notable interview series of professional women in online journalism that you may find informative and interesting.
    The interviews were conducted by the University of Iowa, Fall 2009 Gender and Mass Media class.

  2. Dr. B says:

    Thought I would update your story. The app is finished and available on the iTunes store: http://bit.ly/iPadapp

    The app was developed in collaboration between the Journalism dept, Art & Design, and the iSchool (Computer Science/Information Technology/Information Systems).

    As there was concern from all departments involved on placing additional strain on any department to support this new product, the app was developed so as to leverage what Journalism students were already doing and is just placing those stories on a new platform for delivery.

    Dr. B. Burton
    (lead faculty for the programmers of The Optimist for iPad team)

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