Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Big Tweets on Campus: College Newspapers' Use of Twitter

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Big Tweets on Campus: College Newspapers' Use of Twitter

Article excerpt

In a time when mainstream newspapers deal with declining circulation, university newspapers across the country appear to be weathering the storm. One study found that 60% of students have read their college newspapers, and 88% of those readers picked up at least one of the past five issues (Jackson, 2012). There is also evidence that the print version of these newspapers is more popular than the online counterpart (Krueger, 2010). Researchers point to several factors for this success, including accessibility (available at popular gathering spots) and cost (often free) (Jackson, 2012; Krueger, 2010).

That's not to say that campus newspapers can or should ignore the online shift that has been occurring within the industry. As administrators tighten their budgets, some of these publications at schools like Bowdoin College in Maine, University of Nebraska-Omaha, University of Texas, and University of Connecticut have all faced the possibility of losing their print products. Others, facing these same threats, have made the move to an online-only platform (Jackson, 2012). In 2012, the University of Oregon's Daily Emerald began printing two days a week, rather than daily, while the University of Georgia's The Red & Black, and Arizona State's The State Press each moved to weekly publications. As many as 6 to 10 college dailies could make the same transition in the near future (Doctor, 2012). These publications have identified several factors for making the move, including a decline in print ad revenue, loss of print readership, and catering to students whose lives are now natively digital (Doctor, 2012).

But there are also benefits to making the digital move. A newspaper's online site helps extend its reach to beyond those physically on campus. These sites are popular among parents, alumni, and potential students (Krueger, 2010). Campus newspapers can also team up with college journalism newswire services to promote their content. For instance, HuffPost College features content aggregated from college newspapers across the country, posting abbreviated stories on their site and directing visitors to the college papers' own sites for the full stories (Garber, 2010). The benefit to college journalists is their content gets greater exposure and, ideally, the campus newspaper website gets more traffic.

Journalism schools recognize that the industry's landscape is changing and are revising their curricula to meet these changes. College newspapers-both independent and part of college curriculum-are increasingly more digital. They recognize that the jobs their graduates are competing for are more hybrid, where rookie reporters are expected to use their social, video, and multi-media platform skills early on in their careers (Doctor, 2012).

One new media tool readily available to college journalists is Twitter, which has become one of the fastest growing social networking sites since it was introduced in 2006. In March 2012, 140 million users were sending 340 million tweets a day (Van Grove, 2012). In 2011, there were 23.5 million unique visitors to Twitter.com, a 16% increase from 2010, and up 70% from 2009 (Sawers, 2011; Facebook, 2010). The increase is second only to Facebook, which saw twice as many visitors in 2011 as it had in 2009 (Sawers, 2011; Facebook, 2010).

If college journalists need to have social media skills when entering the professional world, it is worth examining whether they are using those skills while still in school. Thus, this study explores how college newspapers are adopting and using Twitter.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In the beginning, Twitter was viewed primarily as a tool used by participants to provide status updates (Lenhart & Fox, 2009). But as Twitter has grown in popularity, so has its usefulness. Twitter is now seen as more than just a means of enhancing one's social network. It has become a tool that can be used to collaborate and share ideas, teach a class, and disseminate news (Lenhart & Fox, 2009; Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009). …

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