Can the web save ailing school papers?

Though often overlooked in favour of triple-digit layoffs
at brand name national papers, college and university newspapers are for the
most part hurting just as much as their mainstream media counterparts. But
according to a recent MediaShift
article, the solution may lie on the web, rather than on newsstands.

“College media, on the whole, are not rich, overstaffed,
well-oiled machines,” wrote Dan Reimold for MediaShift.
“In fact, most student journalism outlets are one bad semester, staff shortage
or poor leadership transition away from near-extinction every academic term.”

After dismissing the handful of dailies in the United
States that operate on inflated budgets, Reimold points to Onward State, a news site
from Pennsylvania State University that competes with the school’s print paper,
the Daily Collegian. In less than two
years, the site, which was basically a blog, ballooned to include a staff of 20
students and averages 40,000 visitors each month.

Reimold suggests five rules to break when it comes to
“saving (and reinventing) a student newspaper in peril”:

Print, Out:
“Print publications provide student media an undeniable presence on campus, but
they are expensive and require extraordinary care and special design skills to

Virtual Workspace:
“Face-to-face meetings and nights in the newsroom can be great for bonding, but
are increasingly overwhelming for students already weighed down by classes,
club meetings, and upcoming Spring Break trips.”

User Friendly:
“Since its inception, [Onward State]
has focused on generating involvement and content from the student body, in
part by using social media.”

Dress Down: “A
campus outlet with a tiny or inexperienced editorial board should not pretend
to be the New York Times. It’s a disservice to student readers, and a turn-off
to potential staff. Drop the pretense. Do something else, something new.”

Check out Reimold’s full piece here.