Incoming Kansan Editor-in-Chief at KU: ‘We’re One of the Best Student Media Organizations, So Let’s Prove It’

Katie Kutsko, incoming editor-in-chief of The University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas, is currently oozing awesomely geeky journalism passion. It has spilled over into a compelling manifesto on the publishing platform Medium in which she rouses the Kansan gang and sets forth a vision to change “the newsroom’s culture from top to bottom.” In her words, “We’re one of the best student media organizations, so let’s prove it.”

The 110-year-old Kansan has been killing it lately, including through the staff’s sustained efforts to report on and call greater attention to issues and incidences of student sexual violence.

But change is coming — including a drop starting this August from daily to twice per week in print. With this shift as a foundation, Kutsko proposes a series of other renovations and reinventions touching on areas ranging from staffing and news production to content and reader engagement. Overall, her white paper for a revitalized Kansan reads as a fascinating case study for other college media to analyze and consider. Kudos to Kutsko for sharing it publicly, raw and in full.

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Among the highlights: Morning newsroom meetings. Daytime reporting and editing shifts. Editor-reporter collaboration throughout the story development process instead of simply at the draft-revision stage. An email newsletter. A brand manager position. A strengthened Kansan alumni community. A pushback against topdown decision-making and “brilliant jerks” on staff who exude entitlement more than excitement. A recruiting effort to bring more multicultural voices and non-journ majors into the mix. And a requirement for staff to be “analytics-literate.”

As she writes in respect to the latter:

“We all need to study and respond to Kansan.com’s analytics and our social analytics. Every copy editor, every reporter, every photographer, every designer  —  everyone. The digital editors will teach the newsroom how to understand and use metrics to improve our work. Reporters need to know how their stories are doing and how people are responding to them. I’m not just talking pageviews, either. People need to see how their audience is viewing their stories (mobile or desktop), the entry points (do certain topics get more traffic from reddit, search, FB or Twitter?), the demographics, where people are reading it (is the story drawing a lot of readership from outside of Kansas?). … My point: reporters have to know this, too. They don’t have to be experts like the digital editors, but they have to know how to do it.”

For those unsure what to make of all this detail-oriented and big picture planning, I’ll translate: Game On.

Kutsko’s parting words: “Working at the Kansan has been my favorite aspect of college  —  it’s why I study at the University of Kansas. I am incredibly passionate about the organization and want to see that it, and all of the other passionate student journalists, succeed. I know that it will not be a quick or an easy push, but I’m confident the team I am putting together will be up for the challenge.”

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