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One a day

February 5, 2012

mystery boxOne of the toughest mysteries to solve in my 35-plus years as a student publications adviser is how to wean my students from essentially writing a daily newspaper once a week. Student focus on a weekly print edition and it seems like 90 percent of the writing and editing comes in the last 24 hours of the seven-day cycle. Deadlines hover around the print edition.

Indeed, it is one of the reasons I push for a weekly publication. I learned long ago that coming out every other week, as many community college papers do with the mistaken notion* that that is all they can afford, only means that students put off completing stories to every other week rather than develop more sensible routines. Forget that their online publications are hungry beasts that beg for multiple deadlines every day; most community college publications still post most of their stories within 24 hours of their print editions … usually after the print edition is done instead of the more logical other way around.

I’ve advised, pleaded, cajoled, threatened. Still the print publication is the top dog when it comes to the work flow.

To be honest, I’ve been part of the problem. For all of my technology hype I am still a print person myself. I am anything but a Luddite, but I still prefer to read newspapers on paper. And when I critique student work it is more than likely to be based on the print edition (which, by the way, few of them read themselves). Only in recent years have I consciously incorporated more critiques of the online edition or the multimedia my students produce.

appleBut I keep trying. I keep growing. I keep coming up with new ideas. For the last year or two I have been promoting what we do as managing a brand rather than producing a newspaper. I incorporate new language into what we do, such as referring to the newspaper as the print edition, as opposed to the online edition or the digital edition. I’m still looking for appropriate terminology for what we do with social media.

My latest attempt to change the deadline mindset, which I just launched this weekend, is to encourage the newspaper’s section editors to accept the challenge of one a day. They should activate on the publication’s website a minimum of one news, one sports, one arts, and one opinion story each day. For that it should be easy to promote at least one item a day on our Facebook page. And since most of our multimedia work these days revolves around audio, we should be posting at least one audio story a day instead of waiting until we aggregate for our weekly radio show.

I’m looking for incentives to change editors’ mindsets in how they assign stories and set deadlines and how they communicate urgency among their staff writers and photographers.

One a day. Sounds simple enough.

* Coming out weekly costs more, but can generate more revenue, making the added editions almost cost-free.

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2 comments

  1. Nice post Rich. Wish I could bring back students form the 80s who were stuck with a veritype machine, xacto blades and wax. They would take advantage of the multimedia opportunities available to student-journalists today. Too bad students don’t see the Web as a real, daily news source.
    -paul


  2. I enjoyed this post, Rich. I’ve been giving perennial thought to much of this, too. I’m going to be sharing this with our new editor in chief.



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