'Digital First' Training Begins on Campus

By Asakawa, Gil | The Quill, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

'Digital First' Training Begins on Campus


Asakawa, Gil, The Quill


iTS THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER BREAK, and although most college students are scattered across the country, news unfortunately doesn't stop for the ebb and flow of the academic calendar.

In today's environment, news is a 24/7, 365-days-ayear narrative. TV stations and daily newspapers have grasped that fact, and many are evolving their newsrooms strategies to "digital first" initiatives. But college and university journalism departments - and before them, even high school newspapers - need to do the same, or we won't be preparing our students journalists to succeed in the new media world that faces them after graduation.

Some schools are already making that transition. The University of Colorado-Boulder, for instance, received a lot of negative publicity when it announced almost two years ago (on my third day on the job, at an all-staff meeting) that it would discontinue its School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This academic evolution is necessary. I welcome it the same as I did the changes shaking up newsrooms in the "real world" when I worked for companies such as the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Denver Post, Advance Newspapers and MediaNews Group (now, ironically, part of Digital First Media).

The same economic stresses that have forced some large metro dailies (most recently, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and three other properties owned by Advance Publications in Alabama) to cut back on their print editions, are causing some college newspapers to also reduce the days they publish a print version.

The cost of newsprint forced the CU Independent, back when it was called the Campus Press, to go online-only almost six years ago, making it a pioneer. This spring, you may have seen the announcement that the Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon is undergoing a radical, digital reboot, which includes cutting back its print editions from a daily to two weekly editions. You can preview the future of the Daily Emerald at future.dailyemerald.com.

Unlike other school papers that are cutting back their print publications, the Oregon paper isn't in dire financial shape. This isn't an immediate economic strategy for them, although in the long run it is. Rather, it's a journalistic one, and I applaud it.

Here are some ways college papers can go digital and help staffers get better jobs after school:

1 FOCUS ON BREAKING NEWS, 24/7

Post even just one sentence if something's happening and that's all you can confirm. Post it right away and then add to it. Use the "write-through" mentality that wire services and big major metros rely on. The first site with the news wins the SEO war. …

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