What purpose does a printed student newspaper still serve?
The only reason a student newspaper still exists in print is because the writers want to see their name in ink: to show to their parents and to add to their portfolios.
It serves no other practical purpose.
Our newspaper is printed bi-weekly, though I know many others are printed on a weekly basis. Our deadline day is Wednesday and the paper is sent to the printers on Thursday, it arrives back for distribution on a Monday. At best the news in the paper is 5 days old – at worst, a story on the newsstands can be over a month old.
It’s not an effective way to distribute news on a university campus. It relies on people picking up the paper in a select number of locations. UCLan has over 30,000 students and we run 2,000 copies, many of which are left on the stands.
There’s an extremely high cost involved in the printing too. If we print a full edition with magazine supplement it costs £1,200 every fortnight.
The solution? Going web only…
The web only allows a student newspaper to write news as and when it’s still newsworthy. With plenty of student protests going on at the moment the web allows us to liveblog the events and to get pictures and news up quickly. The Millbank riots coincided with our deadline day for our print edition but the paper hit the stands on the following Monday. Is it still news by then?
The web is an extremely effective distribution method for today’s university students. By integrating the newspaper deadline with a Facebook ‘Like’ page we can deliver stories straight into a student’s news feed and links to articles can be easily shared. It also allows off-campus access to the newspaper.
We spend hours and hours every Wednesday on page layout in Adobe InDesign; an increasingly diminishing skill. We’re stretched by having a small team capable of using the software.
Using WordPress and the great Edit Flow plugin we can assign users as Editors, Section Editors, Photographers, Writers, and have a draft and approval process. It’s an excellent tool for the editing process and makes subbing and collaboration much easier.
I estimated we’d save 50 man-hours a week by using just this method of publication.
With the large amounts of money saved from scrapping the print edition, the newspaper team could afford new equipment for better multimedia newsgathering. Scrapping one edition would provide enough money for 10 Flip cameras.
There may be a few issues with my proposal. If there’s no printing costs to pay for the students’ union may cut overall funding to the newspaper. It might also be harder to attract writers if there’s no payoff in getting their name in a physical copy.
I’m interested if this solves a problem only Pluto has or whether other student editors have similar problems to us.