Student Editor: ‘Why is it Worth My Time to Put This Paper Out Twice a Week?’

The editor-in-chief of the Lehigh University student newspaper is determined to shift the paper’s primary focus from print to digital, in large part so his staffers can stop “putting effort into something that is clearly on the decline.”

In a post late last week on his personal blog, Connor Tait contends The Brown and White’s roughly 130 student staffers are “wasting valuable human labor on a product that isn’t going to be winning awards.” A 12-word summary of his views: Print is dying. Digital is gaining. Time to get with the program.

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Among the Brown and White’s recent woes, according to Tait: a severe cut in circulation for its twice-weekly print edition; a simultaneous drop in advertising revenue; and a noticeable lack of motivation among staffers “finding it difficult to surmise the willpower to coop up in the newsroom” to put together something they see as a vestige of a past generation.

Tait: “Why is it worth my time to put this paper out twice a week when we won’t even distribute for a fifth of the student body? How can you expect me to want to put forth a grand portion of my time when I know how unsustainable the paper is? Just so I can continue in some tradition that’s lasted over a century? Just so I can continue to put out a product that’s failing? That’s not my idea of a good business model.”

His two-pronged solution: 1) Drop from twice-weekly to weekly in print with re-upped circulation and hopefully increased pick-up rates due to copies’ longer newsstand lifespans. 2) Place much greater emphasis on the web and social media, including by producing an independent website (the B&W is currently aligned online with a nearby local newspaper).

In his words, “If we make the switch to digital soon, The Brown and White will have the potential to be up there with some of the best college newspapers in the country. If we don’t, we will continue suffering and our readership will continue to decrease until we’ll have to stop putting out a print edition anyway.”

What do you think?

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Comments
4 Responses to “Student Editor: ‘Why is it Worth My Time to Put This Paper Out Twice a Week?’”
  1. I haven’t seen the paper, but my personal experience has shown me that when papers deliver content of interest and importance to their readers, they get picked up. Producing a newspaper just because you’ve always produced a newspaper is — absolutely — the wrong reason to do it. Producing news content, in print or digitally, means providing timely, interesting and informative content. Keep the focus there. And if you’re producing a daily newspaper one day a week and calling it a weekly, then your readership will remain low as will interest. Use each of the media types for what they are good for.

  2. It’s worth your time to produce a print newspaper if that is the best way to reach your audience. On most college campuses, students are much more likely to read campus news in print than on any other platform. Student media organizations definitely need to work hard on newer platforms, but it’s going to be some years before those replace print as primary — again, on most campuses.

    On most campuses, print can at least cover its own costs, and probably cover digital initiatives, if properly run. But that’s not true everywhere, and some colleges won’t provide the resources to run print like a business. In that case, of course, it’s smarter to dump print and go digital than to quietly go out of business.

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  2. […] over to a more digital-focuses news product. As that happens more, this question has been if college newspapers should also switch to online-only or online-focused […]