At SUNY Binghamton, Students’ Passion for Print is a Pipe Dream

There is a battle brewing in Binghamton, one pitting print against online, tradition against innovation, ink stains against Google searches, newsstands against trending tweets. It is the story of student journalism’s (r)evolution, writ small.  It is a Pipe Dream.

Like all campus newspapers, The Pipe Dream at SUNY Binghamton is caught in a state of betwixt and between topsy-turvydom.  According to Binghamton University Magazine, its staffers and on-campus readers still prefer the twice-weekly, hard copy Dream.  Meanwhile, a growing contingent of outside readers- mostly Googlers and Facebook and Twitter stumblers- are visiting the virtual Dream.

The result: A multi-platform news product that is trying to be everything to everyone– with a won’t-die print mentality and a realization of online inevitability.

Photo for Binghamton University Magazine by Jonathan Cohen

Steve Rice, the newspaper’s most recent technology manager, openly admits: “We’re not too far off from becoming a significantly online paper.”  Then why does the Pipe Dream still rock most in print in editors’ and readers’ eyes?

1) Perceived Newsiness: As the paper’s outgoing editor in chief Ashley Tarr says, “The news that we put out [in print] is different from the news that you would see online. . . . The hard stories that we put out are still more newsworthy. . . .  So that’s where we focus most of our energy.”

2) Web 2.uh-oh: The online edition of the paper, like those of many college pubs, is not up to snuff, leading to less staff interest in creating content for it and less reader interest in checking it out.  As Tarr notes, “People love Pipe Dream on this campus.  They pick it up and they say that we do a great job. And our website, as much as we want it to be at a different level than it is right now, we still see a much greater need for our print paper than our online product.”

3) Convenience: As last year’s managing editor Chris Carpenter says, “Maybe 1,600 copies are delivered to the Lecture Hall alone. Almost every week, they are completely picked up. . . . If [students] see a newspaper sitting in our stands, they’re more likely to pick that up and skim through it.”

4) Concreteness: The value of in-person newsroom all-nighters and seeing one’s work or name in print remains, for now.  According to outgoing Pipe Dream opinion editor Marina Gaft, “When we stay up to 5 or 6 a.m., and we know that the next morning we can go out and get a paper and actually hold it in our hands, it’s a concrete thing- and that makes a difference.”

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