Former student editor: Print editions aren’t fundamental to college newspapers’ existence

PBS MediaShift | Student Press Law Center | Report Schick

University of Virginia graduate Matthew Cameron wrote a thesis suggesting ways university newspapers can survive and thrive, Dan Reimold writes. Student journalists who are paid “shouldn’t expect the same compensation they did in the past,” Reimold says, nor should they fight a migration away from print.

Cameron was editor-in-chief at U.Va.’s Cavalier Daily, where “We found that people were becoming less interested in the print paper,” Cameron told Reimold.

“Then when we looked at our pick-up rates [the amount of copies grabbed from newsstands around campus], the numbers we found confirmed the papers weren’t being picked up as much as they used to.”

Cameron — who studied operations at The Red & Black, the Columbia Missourian and the Daily Texan for his report — also suggests papers survey their audience regularly and restructure as 501(c)(3) organizations to lessen opportunities for “presidents or boards of regents meddling in the newspaper’s affairs.”

In a related story, Georgia State University student David Schick filed suit Monday against the University System of Georgia’s board of regents, with whom he’s been tussling over access to records since he was editor of Georgia Perimeter College’s newspaper last May.

The university group “initially demanded Mr. Schick pay $2,963.39 to receive the records,” a press release on Schick’s site says, “a cost which Mr. Schick was able to debunk by presenting the sworn affidavit of a data- management expert.” Elsewhere in the release, Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte says: “This is the 21st century, and emails are searchable and retrievable within a matter of seconds, not months.”

Related: Louisiana State University’s student newspaper honored, defeated | ASU student newspaper to reduce print frequency | Newspaper boxes will soon be welcome outside University of Texas journalism school

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  • David Simpson

    Ongoing market research is very much needed. And much innovation and energy for digital products. But, as katzgrau notes, print is still profitable on many campuses. So let’s not just shake our heads at low pickup rates. Let’s get out there and hand out the paper. And let’s look hard at what we’re putting on covers to attract readers. (Again, reader research will help.)

  • katzgrau

    Interesting — one thing I’d imagine relates to larger orgs is that print is still paying the bills for many of them.

    Ie, in college, we had one big advertiser who bought a semester’s worth of full-color, 2 center pages for about $1200 / week.

    Our website had about 10 eyeballs total, so there was no way we could swing the same type of revenue from it.

    College orgs will have to learn how to shepherd the college audience online. But even then, will a campus of 10k students be able to attract $1200 / week online? Something to think about.