What Will the Student Press Be Like in 2030?

Politico recently asked a group of leaders, innovators and big thinkers a simple, loaded question: What will the world be like in 2030? It sparked my interest in gathering similar predictions — about the student press.

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To that end, I recently reached out to the spring 2015 CMM Fellows — an elite crew of top editors and reporters at student media across the U.S. and in Europe — to get their perspectives on a main question prompt: What do you imagine or hope will be different about college media in 2030?

I was curious about any particular things they envision transforming or disappearing in the next 15 years — from tech-based shifts and changing reader habits to the upending of news production routines and the possibility of more professional-student collaborations. The Fellows were free to make their predictions grounded in reality or totally out there; silly or serious; optimistic or downbeat; big picture or uber-specific.

The most prominent themes weaving through the students’ prognoses or desires: print issues will disappear or roll out at most as weekly keepsakes; audience interaction, engagement and content-sharing will be pivotal; and all-in convergence among separate student media is very likely.

Here is a rundown of their responses.

Natalie Daher, editor-in-chief, The Pitt News, University of Pittsburgh

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The print edition of student newspapers will be extinct by 2030. We’re undergoing a reinvention now as mainstream media outlets like Vox and BuzzFeed sprout up and attract a widespread audience of millennials and professional journalists alike. Meanwhile, more college newspapers are slashing or killing off print products. What I’m envisioning for the student press in 2030 is a digital-first, forum-like approach already gaining momentum on platforms like Medium and This is Fusion.

By 2030, tablets, smartphones and who knows what other gadgets will be ubiquitously used by college students. Plenty of studies have already shown that the Internet is chief among millennials’ news consumption — and it’s not going away. One challenge we’ve faced in the newsroom is how to draw students to our website and social platforms, which seems like a no-brainer given our generation’s proficiency with computers. When we talk about cutting our now-daily print editions, the fear of fading into obscurity, out of sight on campus, is a real and pressing concern.

I think developing and promoting a universal submission option, like Medium, will be one solution, hopefully much earlier than 2030. The publication of commentary on a news outlet’s site should be an incentive for students — many already blogging — to join the public conversation about campus issues and ideas. Even President Obama, whose 2008 win is partially attributed to capturing young voters, has seen the value in the blossoming audience on Medium.

College media should seize the opportunity to become a digital conversation, generated by student journalists and readers alike. Creating a salient dialogue is our primary goal, anyway, so I hope the shift toward more compelling, provocative and divisive reader-produced content online could be a starting point.

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Joey Stipek, assignment editor, OU Nightly, University of Oklahoma

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I predict community newspapers and smaller television stations will be purchased by colleges and universities or embrace more in-depth working relationships and operate as learning labs. Think the Columbian Missourian or the Arizona State-PBS model. I also envision more emphasis being placed on student journalists and the student press building a following on social media and branding oneself. 

It’s getting to the point already where I don’t think a newsroom is going to take a chance on you unless you have either an established name due to your student media work or a huge following on social media.

From a content perspective, due to the dwindling size of professional newsrooms and the rise in non-profit journalism, I predict there will be a greater focus on drilling for topics, collecting and disseminating information as datasets and sharing and reporting on contracts and public records.

Michelle Fredrickson, editor-in-chief, The Daily Evergreen, Wash. St.

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In the next 15 years, college media will grow a lot and multimedia will be even more essential to its content and core mission. Digital storytelling is powerful now, with our ability to create parallax scrolling sites and interactive graphics. In 15 years, digital storytelling will be even bigger and better.

I like to imagine some 3D-imaging techniques, something akin to a “Star Trek”-style holographic imaging system to create a truly immersive news experience. A Holodeck way to view the news. And as members of a generation growing up with quickly-advancing technology, the college journalists of the 2030s will be much more more equipped to learn new systems and produce some amazing multimedia packages to support the journalism that goes into the papers.

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Ric Sanchez, editor-in-chief, Montana Kaimin, University of Montana

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By 2030, I would be surprised if there are daily print student newspapers. Recently, many college newsrooms have made the switch from daily to weekly or biweekly in print, most notably The Emerald at the University of Oregon and The Red & Black at the University of Georgia. Traditionalists might lament the trend, but it has its merits.

From an editorial standpoint, cutting back print publication days forces students to think web-first, shifting focus to breaking news and publishing content when it’s ready — not the following day. The weekly publication can be more focused on analysis, longform features, briefs — whatever student journalists think their audience needs. And from an advertising standpoint, I’ve been told that having one publication per week, month or quarter allows the ad staff to better focus its efforts.

As far as online publishing platforms, I envision more apps, possibly native apps, that allow for push notifications. Twitter and Facebook, as third-party social media sites, are too unreliable to get a message out. And who knows if they’ll be around by 2030.

I’ve heard people say they think media in the future will segregate themselves — “Go here for tech news, here for sports news…” — but I predict college newsrooms will move in the other direction. Instead of a campus newspaper and a campus television broadcast, schools will start to see large, independent media groups that do it all — online news, podcasts and video reports, all operating under the same roof.

Cormac Duffy, editor, University Observer, University College Dublin

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The biggest change that student journalism could face by 2030 is the rise of online universities. While it’s still very unclear how much they could upset our understanding of the traditional campus, the standard four-year undergraduate degree will increasingly be embraced as a more viable option to carry out online, remotely.

Considering its flexibility, and especially its lower cost, it’s already becoming a much smarter option for many students to just take online classes. Amid this online academic boom, student journalism may struggle to find not only an identity, but anything to cover. So much of our work is dependent on the physical campus and the culture it creates.

Erica Corder, editor-in-chief, The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech

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BuzzFeed is doing it right — as much as I hate to admit it. The outlet has the Internet generation under its command, with a few quizzes here, a meme or two there and Gifs all around. I’ve tried my best to understand this trend, this obsession with the mindless, and I’ve realized: That’s what people want — to not have to think so critically about news. Students especially are so constantly saturated with information which can be difficult to digest, between classes and extracurricular learning experiences. So checking out the day’s headlines in a fun format is appealing.

I don’t necessarily think BuzzFeed itself is the way of the future, but I do think student media will shift as they begin to understand their audience more — which BuzzFeed obviously does. Right now, the fun and mindless platform is what’s most appealing. Tomorrow, it may be some other site that presents news in a different way. But we’ll know it appeals because people have the ability to share and tweet and reblog, giving us data that shows what people like most. This data will give student media the capability to assess their audience better, as trends sweep in and out. It’s a capability that was not present 10 years ago, and will do far more to tell college newspapers what students like than a circulation report ever could.

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Sami Edge, editor-in-chief, The Emerald, University of Oregon

1In 15 years, I’d like to see college media leading the way in community engagement — specifically the collaboration between journalists and the audience they write for. At the heart of the Fourth Estate are the desires to act as a governmental watchdog and the people’s advocate. It’s a difficult job, and one that requires a very close relationship with the public.

The media stay relevant and honest by constantly seeking feedback and holding themselves accountable to their audience. Citizens stay informed and civically inspired through their interactions with the media. It’s a delicate balance, and one that requires the trust that stems from strict adherence to journalistic integrity.

Right now, I think that balance is off. The public doesn’t trust the media. In fact, I think many people don’t even know what we truly aspire to do. In some cases, the media deserve that reputation of distrust. I think fixing that relationship starts at the college level.

There’s an understanding that stems from reporting on and writing to serve an audience of peers that isn’t necessarily translated to the professional world of journalism. The audience is just too broad. But a university is a microcosm, where close interaction, collaboration and experimentation between journalists and their peers can change understanding of the media’s relationship with the public. That changing relationship will follow students as they graduate, and shape the greater national arena. Getting there will take learning on both sides of the table. It isn’t an easy task to accomplish. But easy isn’t why we chose this profession.

Liz Young, editor-in-chief, The Lantern, Ohio State University

1In 15 years, we won’t have newspapers, at least not ones that look like what we’re used to. But we will have better, more interactive digital newsletters. These newsletters will allow readers to choose what they want to read about, but will also provide a mix of information about topics that readers should know about — presented in a way that will make them want to read. I’m thinking along the lines of “This is how this affects you personally…”

I also predict student papers will cross-share more with other student papers. After all, we have endless space to do that online. And the more we move toward that online work, the more it makes sense to collaborate in some aspects.

Nicole Brown, former editor-in-chief, Washington Square News, NYU

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The future of journalism is always a difficult topic for me. Will print still exist? How will people read the news? Will there be a job for me? One journalist put these questions in perspective for me, however. He said we should not be concerned about the future of journalism. Yes, there will be changes, but we are in an exciting m because of all the changes. None of us know exactly where it will be in 15 years, but it will always exist. This is especially true for student media.

As students, we are able to try new things and be as innovative as possible. I am sure students will create content in ways we have not even thought about yet. I imagine more and more visuals and interactive components will be added to news coverage. I also believe student engagement will strengthen. I think there is a growing importance for students to know what is happening on their campus and what their universities are doing — and the perfect outlet for that information is the student press.

On a less serious note, I imagine technology is going to advance at an even greater speed, and who knows what students will be able to do with new technology. Maybe student journalists will record holograms of themselves giving a news report that can then appear in classrooms or students’ dorms.

Riley Brands, editor-in-chief, The Daily Texan, University of Texas

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By 2030, I predict the student newspapers still in print today will have scaled back to a once-a-week printing schedule. Newsprint will be viewed as a luxury to be splurged on no more frequently than that. Crucially, I don’t think those papers will cut and run from the old medium completely.

I write that after holding discussions with reporters at newspapers big and small, some of them of the millennial generation, who still smile at seeing their name in print. That tangible keepsake is something that can’t be provided by the Internet — at least not yet. So I wouldn’t be shocked if, say, in 2030, student newspapers were pumping out daily content online, while still compiling the best pieces of the week for print.

Courtney Jacquin, editor-in-chief, The DePaulia, DePaul University

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Thinking about 2030 is kind of terrifying. It seems like the oh-so-distant future, but it’s really only 15 years away. And I’ll be 37. As much as it hurts me to write, I know print publications will be done. In 2030 we’ll only have the memories of newsprint and glossy pages. Everything will be digital.

I also believe the idea of having separate newspapers, radio stations and news programs at universities will be a remnant of the past. Converged newsrooms will go beyond collaborative spaces to creating truly cohesive student news media.

To that end, students won’t specialize in writing or broadcast. They’ll do it all. We’re already moving in that direction in many j-school programs and classes. But the thought that these things were once separate will be as funny to students in 2030 as the idea of hair-sprayed ’80s hair is to us now.

Stephen Koenigsfeld, editor-in-chief, Iowa State Daily, Iowa State

1By 2030, I predict student media will be doing a lot more than producing the newspaper both in print and digitally. Yes, I believe there will still be newspapers in 2030. Call me old-fashioned or whatever, but they’ll still be there. Yet, at the same time, I think publications will start to be media groups instead of simply newspapers.

As an example, this year the Iowa State Daily transformed from the Iowa State Daily to The Iowa State Daily Media Group. We do a lot of things — from our normal newspapers to magazine publications like HOOPS. Things like isdhoops.com will also be more common among all student media, both big and small.

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Jordyn Reiland, editor-in-chief, The Daily Iowan, University of Iowa

1I couldn’t help but laugh at myself a little bit trying to predict the future because people aren’t even sure what college media is going to be like in the next five months, let alone in 2030. Yet nonetheless, I think the biggest thing that impacts all media, and maybe even more so student media, is the rampant change in technology. The Internet is obviously greatly impacting the news media — from content, audience engagement and financial perspectives. I think whatever technology presents itself next will do the same. 

It’s hard to say whether there will be a print product in 2030. I’m sure a lot of people assumed print would be “dead” by now and several college newspapers are still printing at least once a week. If print media does cease to exist by 2030, I think making sure that a student media organization’s website is very interactive and responsive to mobile will remain very important.

Steffi S. Lee, editor-in-chief, The Simpsonian, Simpson College

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I predict college media in 2030 will be the go-to places for information. Student journalists are currently learning all about branding. I think this learning will keep college media going places. Maybe student journalists will be so effective with their branding that they’ll have the equipment to shoot, write, edit and promote all the multimedia content they need in a matter of seconds.

We’re already working pretty quickly right now in 2015. Who’s to say college media even won’t be faster in its work 15 years from now?

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