Columbia Spectator Shifting to Weekly in Print, First Student Paper in Ivy League to Drop Daily

The Columbia Daily Spectator at Columbia University is set to become “web-first” and publish weekly in print starting in the fall. If the transition is approved by the paper’s board of directors, the 137-year-old pub — independent from the university since 1962 — would be the first student newspaper at an Ivy League school to abandon its daily print presence.

The Spectator currently publishes a print issue five days per week, with copies distributed at Columbia and surrounding New York City neighborhoods including Morningside Heights and West Harlem. The “web-first” approach would focus all the staff’s ink-stained energies on a regular Thursday edition (which will possibly incorporate its current weekly magazine The Eye), while maintaining an around-the-clock web and mobile news operation.

As Capital New York reports, the online shift is not built atop major money worries or woes. The paper has been in the black financially since 2010, although “the daily print edition lost money for the first time this year.”

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According to Spectator leadership, one big hope is to use the cash currently spent on printing to bump the paper’s work-study program from four students to 10.

Capital New York: “Since the paper does not pay its all-student editorial staff, [editor-in-chief Abby Abrams] explained, some qualified students must forgo reporting for the Spectator to find paying jobs. The work-study program is intended to provide an hourly wage for these students. ‘It’s really important for Spec to reflect diversity, and it’s not easy to work for free,’ Abrams said.”

And finally, as every article on the loss of daily must feature, here is a former-staffer-reflecting-on-glorious-print-days quote. I like this one because it’s warmhearted about the impending changes and also involves a crazy parrot:

“The place was really a terrific training ground for young journalists and I suppose that will all continue regardless of the medium. But the Specin the late 1980s and early 1990s was the last connection to the ‘hot type’ era. Our ‘boards’ would be taken to the printing plant in New Jersey in the early morning by this really great Colombian guy named Ricardo (who owned a crazy parrot that was also named Ricardo). I went with him once to the printing plant and it was an incredible experience for a 19-year-old to be treated like a mini-Charles Foster Kane and to see the paper come off the presses.”

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