UI and ISU Hope ‘Digital First’ Approach to Campus Newspapers Pays Off | University-illinois
BLOOMINGTON – For student journalists, nothing better than seeing your signature in the newspaper. This recognition will truly miss you when you can’t do it anymore.
Take this from Kellie Foy, a junior at Illinois State University and editor of campus publishing The Vidette, who has seen her newspaper’s publishing schedule drop from four times a week to twice, to once, then to zero.
“I would say to those who can still do the papers: do it for as long as you can,” Foy said. “It’s been a month and a half since we had no paper, and I wish I could start over because I miss it so much.
The pandemic economy has forced the hands of two leading academic newspapers, the University of Illinois’ Daily Illini and the ISU’s Vidette, to reduce their press presence this semester.
“The DI,” as it’s known now, has grown from traditional bi-weekly newspapers to a weekly thematic tabloid. La Vidette has gone completely virtual: for the first time in its 133-year history, there is no printed product at all.
One semester after winning first and second places for general excellence in the Illinois College Press Association awards, student publications have embraced a digital-centric mindset, which supervisors say is a necessity financial because advertisers’ revenues have dried up.
But their workloads are no lighter: both newspapers hope the change will prompt their student journalists to adapt content to modern news consumption habits.
According to a Pew Research study published in January, around 60% of Americans said they received information ‘often’ from digital devices such as smartphones or tablets, while only 10% said they received information from digital devices such as smartphones or tablets. often received information from print sources.
The Daily Illini and Vidette both temporarily ceased print production when the pandemic first struck in March 2020, but things didn’t get any easier with the onset of the school year.
During UI’s fall and spring semesters, as advertising revenue dwindled, student-run newspapers designed in the YMCA University basement were losing money every Monday and Thursday that ‘they were publishing,’ said Daily Illini editor-in-chief Diana Anghel.
Last year, web traffic was down after several years of steady growth, according to Jordan Dziura, the new executive director of parent company Illini Media.
Towards the end of the spring semester, when Anghel took over as editor, change was in the air.
“The tabloid came about as a rebranding idea, and it also came with a new mindset to focus on digital,” Anghel said. “By still printing and including regular DI content in this tabloid, it was a nod to the 150-year tradition that we had printed The Daily Illini.”
The tabloid style leaves plenty of space for interested advertisers. Combined with a much larger campus population this year, the newspaper is once again making more money than it spends, albeit little, she said.
Dziura, an UI graduate and former member of the Daily Illini, agreed to a Chicago Tribune buyout in March 2020 after 21 years at the newspaper. He started his role at Illini Media on August 4, after the weekly production schedule had already been decided.
As journalists and editors get used to working in person, he hopes student staff will adjust to the march of the modern information economy, preaching a “constant drumbeat of the production of contents “.
“By removing this Monday issue, I think, further pushes students to realize that they need to generate these stories and content all the time, and not tie into the rhythm of the print product,” Dziura said. “The website is a big bottomless pit, and we have to keep it filled. “
After a strong start to the fall semester at ISU, Vidette Online has already reached 1 million pageviews in calendar year 2021. The post had only achieved seven-digit clicks. times before, during the men’s basketball team run to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship game in 2016-17, and even that landmark wasn’t so early in the school year .
“We focused more on social media presence and interacting with our audience, making sure we attend events and do coverage,” said Foy. “We have the person who is tweeting live and posting stuff on Instagram.”
Would these changes have happened if the pandemic had not happened? Probably not, Dziura thinks. But COVID-19 may have accelerated a shift to the virtual that was already underway.
“It is not unique to student media or the media in general,” he said. “The whole world had to face this, and I don’t think there is a company that didn’t have to make a difficult choice.”
By strengthening ties with alumni, Dziura hopes to one day explore a nonprofit model for publishing. In the meantime, Anghel said his workload had “at least doubled” to overhaul DI’s print and online presence.
“Through all of these changes, my only goal is to create sustainable and efficient systems for the future,” she said. “For a long time we felt like we were at the forefront of a battle and we didn’t have enough weapons to fight in that battle.”
“You have people who are so hesitant to talk to you.” If there’s one potential in-store reset for campus newspapers, it’s new talent. Recruitment efforts in early fall are paying off. Foy guessed “about 90 percent” of Vidette’s staff are new.
For the batch of journalists who flock, Daily Illini editor-in-chief Gwyn Skiles touts the publication as an “educational document.” But with the delays and “the pressure of national media conversations” seeping into the experience, young journalists are growing up quickly.
“You get people who are so hesitant to talk to you about the simpler things because (Donald) Trump was saying ‘fake news, they’re going to lie about you,’ all that,” Skiles said of the former president . “Even though we’re just doing a science story and interviewing professors doing research, they’re so reluctant to talk to us because they don’t want us to publish badly.”
Sometimes the greatest hostility comes from other students. Just ask Corryn Brock, editor of the Daily Eastern, senior from Illinois.
Brock and a group of his reporters went to a few evenings home on campus over the “official St. Patrick’s Day” weekend in March, in an effort to report how students were behaving in response to discouragement from the administration of the EIU and the organizers of Greek life.
They found fellowship and sisterhood members defying orders and partying. By Brock’s admission, they drew “a fantastic story” from the trip, with images.
Within days of the publication, there were screams in the streets, students sneaking photos of staff as they were out to eat, even a few threats to sue the newspaper that “got nowhere,” he said. Brock said.
“Fortunately, we have a good professor of communications law,” said Brock. “Looking back, I don’t know if I would have done this to my reporters if I had known how bad it was going to be the next week.”
“Crawling so that the next generations can run”
Brock’s Daily Eastern is a rarity, having continued its five-day-a-week publishing program with the help of an on-site printing press.
This might not last long, as the equipment is “old enough” and the man who manages it is considering retiring.
“It’s hard to find someone who knows how to work with the press,” Brock said.
For now, she spends at least 40 hours per week in the office, receiving a stipend of $ 75 per week while she takes the lead for campus coverage.
Her Twitter Biography: “The biggest fan of local journalism. With some free time this summer, Brock revamped the newspaper’s header and redesigned its 2000s website.
It is a legacy that she will leave to future generations of campus journalists. As the 18-month-plus pandemic has emptied newsrooms and strained budgets and staff, this semester for some student newspapers feels like starting from scratch.
Editors rarely stay for more than a year. The clock is ticking.
“I feel like we are crawling so that the next generations can run,” Anghel said.
“Right now we’re bumping our heads against the wall a bit, but we’re doing it to create a sustainable system and something that works financially and efficiently for future generations of ID. “