CMM Special Series: The Future of College Media (How Do We Get Students to Care More?) Part 15: ‘Trying to Be People’s First Stop for 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 15: ‘Trying to Be People’s First Stop for News’

By Olivia Krauth, University of Louisville

Summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow

My initial reaction to Jenny’s perspective was something along the lines of “Preach it, girl!” One of the pet peeves I’ve developed over the past semester as editor-in-chief has been seeing friends of mine share links to articles produced by one of the larger news outlets in town when I spent time creating similar stories.

Like Jennifer, some of my closest friends don’t read the paper and won’t follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook page. It’s irritating to say the least, knowing people, especially college students, prefer to get their news from places other than their friend — meaning, in this situation, me.

The problem isn’t that college students don’t care about the news. I’ve found that often students do care as long as the news directly impacts them in some way. The problem is that college students don’t care about getting that news from their college media source. And a bigger problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a surefire cure.

                                  The summer 2015 issue of The Louisville Cardinal.

As EIC, I’ve tried a few different things to grow our audience and convince readers to come to us for their news. For example, we’ve started paying much more attention to our social media platforms. We created a social media schedule to make sure we have stories posting at times students will be more likely to see them. Before, it was kind of random and we would sometimes go days without posting — not good when you’re trying to be people’s first stop for news.

We’re also more focused on reporting stories that people will hopefully find interesting, and subsequently want to share. One article this past fall that received a lot of social media attention was a piece on a shift in what people were wearing to tailgate. A lot of the sources were in Greek life, and they didn’t really like the story. But it drummed up a lot of discussion — about the actual shift and Greek life in general — most of it on social media.

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So far, overall, our push for more readers has worked. Social media followers are up. Students are also more likely to share our stories and discuss them with friends and sometimes with us. Compared to a year ago, more people care about the student newspaper. But there is still so much room to grow.

Olivia Krauth is a junior investigative journalism major at the University of Louisville. She is editor-in-chief of The Louisville Cardinal. 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

Part 9‘The Generation Changing the News’ by Emma Discher, Tulane University

Part 10‘Why We Report What We Do’ by Gary Grumbach, Elon University

Part 11‘Do the Best You Can With What You Have’ by Louis Oprisa, City College of New York

Part 12‘Focusing on Quality Rather Than Quantity’ by Alicia Keene, Texas Tech University

Part 13‘The Ways We Organically Attract Readers’ by Sean Feverston, Otterbein University

Part 14‘Involving the Community in the Process’ by Nicole Brown, New York University

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