Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Peace, Love and the Internet

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Peace, Love and the Internet

Article excerpt

THEY WERE THE first newspapers on the Web.They were miles ahead of professional newspapers in the race for cyberspace and went online without the fanfare.

They are college newspapers. Newspapers that, until now, had no easy way to share stories and story ideas with other college papers nationwide. A company called Main Quad and a Northwestern student want to change that.

They are providing online college newspapers with a viable, exciting service. student-and university-run, for sharing stories and ideas--all for free. It's called UWire, and it may be just what the cyberdoctor ordered.

"I had the idea for it I when I was a freshman at Northwestern." said Mike Lazarow, creator of UWire."I hadn't heard of any system that really linked college newspapers."

During his sophomore year as an accelerated master's student, he contacted a few college newspapers that agreed to e-mail stories to other college papers.

"It was pretty sparce in the beginning," he said. But other papers joined in and soon UWire became an easy way for college editors to find out what was happening at other college campuses, he said.

Lazarow and his staff of three read hundreds of stories, and chose the top eight or 10 to e-mail to college papers. All are saved as a text file so the service is compatible with any e-mail program.

On the Web where UWire is posted (www.mainquad.com), Lazarow and his staff choose the top story and quote of the day. Also featured is Kopyedit Korner, a reference tool kit for writers and editors that contains quotation books, dictionaries, acronyms, thesauri, and more.

Since most campus newspapers are online, they provide links to UWire's home page as a kind of payment.The few colleges and universities that do not have online newspapers usually pay a one-time fee of $150 to $200. But Lazarow said he is flexible.

"The idea is not to gouge newspapers," said Lazarow."Most are online and a link is much more valuable than trying to squeeze $250 out of a college newspaper."

For instance, the University of Hawaii radio station lacked the money needed to create an online presence, but desperately needed UWire for its news report. Lazarow took such pity that he waived the fee for the station.

Things started to change for Lazarow when a company named Main Quad called last summer and offered to buy UWire. Mason Meyers, cofounder of Main Quad--billed as a service to "connect college students to each other, themselves and the world"--wanted UWire on his Web site as a complement to Main Quad.

"UWire is not looked at as a revenue generator right now, but as a constituency," said Meyers."We want to sign up as many papers as we can so we can have a vibrant community of student journalists on the site."

Meyers hired Lazarow to be responsible for Main Quad's news division. One of Lazarow's goals is to "create a kick-ass product for college students and build on what I have been doing."

Ideally, Lazarow wants to have 500 campus papers signed up. He said he talked to companies offering similar services, rejecting more corporate approaches because he wanted to maintain the service as "a university- and student-based project, and Main Quad's philosophy is to give them as much of a high-quality product as you can for free," he said.

This approach is evident in both Main Quad's Web site, and its business model. Headquartered in San Francisco, Main Quad operates an advertisingbased Web site. …

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