Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Moving from Print to Screen: When the College Newspaper Evolves

I knew it was inevitable. Still, when I learned from colleagues that the student newspaper at the college where we work would soon be published entirely online, I was sad. After 50 years of a weekly print paper—sometimes late, always with errors, usually an interesting gauge of what college students deemed newsworthy in their community—I mourned a bit. I confess: I liked the feel of the paper in my hands. I liked hunting it down on campus just to find the thing (consistent distribution was not a strength of college students). And I liked flipping the pages to see bylines of my students. I'd skim over the stories, sometimes with a roll of the eyes, often sighing from the sheer youthfulness of the content. But once in a while—maybe once or twice a month—there was that moment when I was caught, pulled in by a compelling lede, shown some details that made me pause in admiration and then look away for a second to think, really think, about the story I'd just read. Those moments made me proud. Of the student reporter who 'got' it. Of the immediacy of the moment when my fingers touched paper (not a computer), and of the long and difficult and enormously powerful tradition of print newspapers to connect a community. Those moments reminded me of the value of the profession, even when novices took it on. And of the human interaction that spilled over each issue I'd had to hunt down and pick up and thumb through, the paper version I could carry with me on my bike or to the classroom. Please don't get me wrong: I'm sure this online version will build community too. Somehow. Just as I'm sure it will be relevant and newsworthy and reflective of our high-tech students. But as I scroll over the electronic pages of its new version, I suspect I'll still roll my eyes every now and then or swell with occasional sense of pride. Something in me, though, will feel all the more grateful for the archive in the College library, the one that houses those musty old student newspapers which show how life used to be on campus.

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