Exclusive: Optimist Editor at Abilene Christian University Explains the Paper’s iPad Plan

The Optimist student newspaper at Abilene Christian University can be consumed in print, online, via iPhone, iPod touch, and soon enough . . . on the iPad.  Student staffers and an ACU faculty and staff support team are optimistic that the paper will be the first iPad-friendly student publication.

As MacNewsWorld reports, “Designing a publication for hardware one can’t get one’s hands on yet can be challenging, admitted ACU Assistant Journalism Professor Kenneth Pybus. ‘It’s like designing a newspaper without paper,’ he [said]. Even with the developer’s kit for the iPad issued by Apple, ‘there are some things that we’re not sure how they’re going to work,’ he noted. ‘We’re deciding, how much of the built-in Apple operating system do we use, and how much do we build on our own?‘”

In a quick exclusive chat with CMM, Optimist editor in chief Colter Hettich lays out a bit about the newspaper’s and school’s iPad plan and the thinking behind it.

How will iPad integration add to the news consumption experience of your readers?

I think the iPad will take readers one step closer to the type of news consumption they want.  It’s textile, it’s customizable, and it’s mobile.

What is the appeal of moving so fast toward integration versus waiting to see how the device catches on?

This is not about the iPad. This is about understanding a new technology and discovering its potential to improve news delivery. The iPad just happens to be one of the latest devices. We expect maybe a dozen students to have an iPad in the fall, and if it turns out to be as popular as the iPhone, then that will be an added bonus.

What is involved in rolling it out?

This project permeates several departments on campus.  Students from the JMC department, the department of Art & Design, and the iSchool are working under faculty guidance to produce an app designed around Optimist content.

Why is it important for student media to stay on the cutting edge of high-technology and new media trends like iPad?

Right now, keeping up with technology is key to a journalist’s survival. Newspapers were once the primary method of delivering print news because it was the only option and people liked it. Now, people would rather not read a 12-square foot stack of paper. They’re using the Web via laptops and mobile devices, they’re following social networking sites, and journalism is adapting. The iPad likely could be a trend, but whether it is or not has nothing to do with our efforts. What we learn while designing for the iPad will be invaluable when we sit down to design for the next device or platform.

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  1. […] In an exclusive chat with CMM in late February about the iPad rollout, Optimist editor in chief Colter Hettich touted the tablet PC’s benefits, while ultimately asserting that the efforts of the paper and school are about innovation more than simply a new killer app: […]