Diving Into The Digital Age: Collegian editor introduces publication’s new direction

The Butler Collegian


When I sat down with The Butler Collegian’s adviser and the director of the school of journalism in May and told them what I am about to tell the readers of this article, I knew I was venturing into uncharted waters.

I knew what I was about to suggest would seem bold. Audacious. Daunting. Reckless, maybe.

But yet, I knew it was the right move. I knew it was what The Collegian had to do in order to not merely survive, but thrive.

Let’s cut the print product, I said. Let’s move to a digital-first emphasis. Let’s change the way we produce content. More showing, less telling. More videos, audios, photos, less text and gray matter. They bought in. So with that, dear reader, welcome to a new era of The Collegian.

This new era of The Collegian means this is the only 12-page edition of The Collegian you will find in the news stands this year. In fact, you will only see seven more paper editions of The Collegian between now and May.

I recognize there are those who, whether out of nostalgia or myriad other reasons, like the feel of a newspaper in their hands. I am one of those people. The feel of pages turning, the evidence of tangible progress — reading page one, then page two, all the way through to page 12 — is something we do not want to completely forsake. Therefore, we will come out with one “special edition” of The Collegian each month, covering a particular topic at a more in-depth level. Several special editions we plan on producing include a Homecoming preview and an NCAA tournament preview.

The rest of our time and resources will be utilized producing engaging, captivating content through our website and social media platforms. We have an entire section of our staff devoted to creating multimedia content for our website. An old adage in journalism is to “show, don’t tell” through storytelling. This new emphasis on digital storytelling will take that aim to a new level. Readers will be able to digest the same content that would be printed each week, but in entirely new and engaging ways. Now, they will be able to have the news at their fingertips within hours of it breaking.

As for why this decision was made, there are several reasons. First and foremost, The Collegian’s upper management team feels it is critical for students to be prepared for the real world. The real world of journalism is diving headlong into the digital age. For a bit of perspective, consider the following statistics:

According to “How Americans get their news,” an article published by the American Press Institute in March 2014, 69 percent of those surveyed used a computer or laptop to consume news during the specified week. Only 61 percent surveyed got their news from paper newspapers or magazines.

Newspapers have seen a 4 percent decrease in ad revenue over the past year while digital ad revenue increased 18 percent, according to Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2015.”

Readers are using social media to share and engage with news content. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook. Nearly one-third of those users use the social media site to get news, according to a March 2014 article from the Pew Research Center.

Half of social network users have shared or reposted news articles, videos or images.

The numbers don’t lie, and the facts are unavoidable. When it comes to how we consume news, we are in the midst of a tidal-wave-sized transition from paper to the screen.

So, The Collegian had a choice. Do we continue devoting a large amount of our resources to our print product, while simply making our digital presence passable? Or do we take a leap of faith?

We chose to leap.

The Collegian’s financial situation also influenced our decision-making process. It is exceptionally difficult to finance a newspaper in the real world, and it is even more difficult to make money as a collegiate publication. While making money is not our top priority, it is undeniable that it takes a certain amount of money to adequately run and staff our newsroom. We want our staff to be compensated for the countless hours they put into making The Collegian all that it is, and we also want them to be able to partake in things like workshops and conferences to enhance their knowledge and allow them to master their craft.

Without a substantial advertising base and without a sizable amount of financial support from the university, our budget continued to dip further and further into the red. By increasing our digital emphasis, our finances will have more flexibility by lowering printing costs.

So, what does this decision mean for you as the reader?

It means some things will change — the medium through which our content is made available, the frequency with which it is produced, and the ways in which you can engage with it.

However, some things will not change. Our commitment to journalistic values — accuracy; covering newsworthy material that impacts students, faculty and staff, the administration and the surrounding community in a meaningful way; and covering news in an honest and fair way — will never change. Our engagement with readers will not go down, it will only increase.

We ask that you, as readers, understand that this is a process for everyone on staff. There will be bumps in the road, and we will be analyzing our content — both the content and its production — very carefully in order to make adjustments as necessary. We are students, and this is a learning process for everyone involved. But we are committed to seeing this process through until the end.

So, reader, welcome. Welcome to the precipice of a new era in The Collegian. Whether you have been reading The Collegian for decades or these are the first words you are reading, the basis for our decision to make this transition is because of your support. We welcome your comments and feedback. It is a pleasure to serve you, and we look forward to taking this journey together.

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