Two more college newspapers drop to once a week

At least three times a year we hear about another college newspaper reducing its print frequency. This semester the College Heights Herald and The George-Anne have become weekly newspapers with a greater focus on their digital products. Editors at both papers said while the timing of the decision was largely financial, the end result will be better and more timely coverage.

While both media outlets are facing declining print revenue, other factors played into the decisions. The College Heights Herald at Western Kentucky University discussed their decision in this column, but the gist is the university cut their reserve fund in half at the same time that print revenue was declining. The money in that fund had been carefully saved for years from self-generated revenue, and for years the paper had been able to keep that money.

College Heights Herald

WKU Herald photo editor Mhari Shaw, (left to right), Brook Joyner, Asst. Picture Editor, Shaban Athuman, Asst. Digital Editor, Craig Ostertag, Design editor, Sam Flick, Designer, and Lashana Harney Managing Editor, all look over the cover of the WKU Herald on the first production night of Fall 2017, August 21th, 2017.

But due to a tough budget year at the university and some leadership changes, that reserve was dipped into and the College Heights Herald has no assurances it won’t happen again. So they made the unusual decision to drop to once a week mid-academic year.

“There is no promise that our account is exempted if this were to happen again,” Andrew Henderson, editor in chief, said. “This is a pre-emptive move to get ahead of it before we are forced to.”

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The George-Anne

The George-Anne at Georgia Southern University was also facing a decline in print revenue coupled with a small, local market. But the university is also consolidating with Armstrong State University, so the timing seemed perfect.

“It was a hard decision to make especially in the middle of the school year,” Jozsef Papp, editor in chief, said. “Would have been helpful to do it in the summer, but we have a great team, so we are going to be fine.”

Both editors have said that the change has been largely supported by their campuses and alumni.

“Response from alumni has been positive,” Henderson said. “They’ve been understanding and supportive. It’s not a surprise to anyone.”

Papp says just the delivery has changed, but not the paper’s main goal.

“If your work is good, people are going to read it,” Papp said. “That’s our job. To inform the people.”

Henderson said to prepare for the switch he reached out to schools who had also seen a reduction in print.

“We reached out to the OU Daily [at the University of Oklahoma],” Henderson said. “We talked with editors who have made the shift. They talked about how it’s not just a change on the technical level but a cultural one too.”

Papp agreed that talking with other editors was helpful to the Georgia Southern crew, too.

“There are people out there who can help you with this,” Papp said. “We were lucky to go to conference and meet editors who have gone through the same thing. College media is a great community. Always people willing to help you out.”

Both editors said that to prepare for a such a switch, it’s important to do your research but to also be brave.

“Don’t be afraid,” Papp said. “That was my main concern. When the time for a switch comes, you have to do it. Journalism is moving online. Have an open mind. I was a little taken back and concerned, but take your time to go through it and make changes. Learn how to improve your publication.”

Henderson stressed taking as much time as you can to plan the transition

“If considering a change, I’d want [others] to slowly implement it,” Henderson said. “Take a semester and make a plan. Really consider a lot of things you are going to do beforehand.”

 

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