CMM Special Series: The Future of College Media (How Do We Get Students to Care More?) Part 9: ‘The Generation Changing the News’

In a recent farewell column published on Quartz, outgoing Daily Tar Heel editor-in-chief Jenny Surane at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote, “[I]t’s humbling to realize that the newspaper I spend so many hours working on isn’t really beloved by my peers in the same way. … My peers are interested in reading news, but they have no loyalties whatsoever about where it comes from. … Even some of my closest friends refused to pick up the newspaper I spent dozens of hours on each week.”

Her sentiments have been echoed in recent semesters by many students and educators connected to college media. Audience engagement is of course always an issue when undergraduates are involved. But the challenge of getting students to regularly check out their campus news outlets is exponentially increasing in an era cluttered with evermore competitors and platforms and bereft of old-media brand loyalty.

For this CMM special series, 20 current and recent top student journalists in the U.S. and Canada offer their perspectives, ideas and advice centered on a single question at the heart of college media’s future: How do we get students to care more about the student press? 

The Future of College Media: How Do We Get Students to Care More?
Part 9: ‘The Generation Changing the News’

By Emma Discher, Tulane University

Summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow

I have felt the same frustration as Jenny with the lack of student interest in our print newspaper at times. Even though it’s easy to be disappointed in the stacks of papers that stay on the racks despite all-nighters in the newsroom, I think student papers do reach their readers in other ways. This is where we should focus.

For example, The Daily Tar Heel, Jenny’s paper, has 29,000+ followers on Twitter and 25,000 likes on Facebook. Even though many people might not pick up a print copy, they show their interest and loyalty to the DTH brand through their social media allegiance. They are choosing to align with it, however casually, in the digital sphere. We must not take that alignment and allegiance for granted. There’s an audience online that we should focus on with more posts, videos, photos and other components we haven’t thought about yet.

This past semester, Hullabaloo staffer Andrew Lemoine pitched the idea of a Hullabaloo Snapchat to me. At first I was skeptical, but he soon convinced me that the popularity of the app on our campus makes it perfect for getting our news and name out there. No, I’m not proposing that we ditch everything else for Snapchat, but it can give us content and –maybe more importantly — also provide us with an additional voice.

So far, we have used Snapchat to cover events going on at Tulane and in New Orleans such as commencement and the many festivals the city hosts. We have framed it as a way for our readers to keep up with the city even if they are not here for the summer. Tulane’s unified commencement is a big show every year. Through Snapchat, we were able to give our followers updates on the speeches, fireworks and music that happened throughout the ceremony in real-time, quick-hit and conveniently right on their phones.

I also envision Snapchat as a tool for the paper to preview pieces and essentially tease what we have coming up. For example, if we interview a band or university official for a story, we can put parts of it out there on Snapchat beforehand. Bottom line, we’re still coming up with new ways to use it every day.

A recent video introducing incoming Hullabaloo section editors.

As student journalists we have the advantage of being closely knit into the community we cover. When we notice that things like Snapchat are taking off, we should use that to our advantage. Snapchat and Twitter allow us to develop a voice and level of realness with our student readers that I think is key. As Millennials, we are part of the generation changing the news. As student journalists, we have the opportunity and really the imperative to experiment and change with it.

Emma Discher is a senior communication and political science major at Tulane University. She is editor-in-chief of The Hullabaloo. She is also a summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow.

Check out other parts of this CMM special series

Part 1: ‘A Makeshift Umbrella During a Rainy Day’ by Matt Lemas, University of Southern California

Part 2‘That Hip, Instagram-Worthy Quality’ by Danielle Klein, University of Toronto

Part 3: ‘Initiating a Complete Culture Shift’ by Katie Kutsko, University of Kansas

Part 4‘For Me, Adaptability is Key’ by Ali Swenson, Loyola Marymount University

Part 5‘The Job I’m Training for Will Always Exist’ by Kyle Walker, University of Tulsa

Part 6‘An Edge in the Algorithms’ by Alex Bitter, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Part 7: ‘News the Way Our Readers Want to Consume It’ by Sami Edge, University of Oregon

Part 8‘Go Out and Play Scientist’ by Nizia Alam, University of Texas at Tyler


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