The next chapter
We’ve all seen the headlines. Cutbacks at newspapers and TV stations. Magazines going digital only. Daily newspapers reduced to weeklies and shifting their focus to digital journalism, where audiences are growing.
It should come as no surprise that The Eagle, AU’s oldest student publication, which for so long has thrived on its own revenue and profits, is susceptible to all the same pressures.
In the fall of 2013, it is possible that The Eagle will no longer appear in print.
Following many years of declining ad sales, the increase in free advertising options elsewhere and the crunch on small businesses in the recession, printing The Eagle every week has become a burdensome cost, leaving our writers to increasingly work with fewer resources. Eventually, a large reserve of profit was depleted.
We cut production from twice a week to weekly in 2009, accompanied with major budget cuts and financial advisement from Student Activities. In the past two years, our business manager was an employee of Student Activities, charged with making The Eagle profitable.
As we move forward with more focus on digital journalism, the future of The Eagle in print is unclear. If it does disappear, this does not mean The Eagle is abandoning print forever. We may be able to raise the money necessary to bring back a print edition in a different form, perhaps once a month or even weekly again.
No matter what, editorial independence is still safe. The Eagle staff has the final decision whether or not to publish the news you see every day.
The future is bright. Over this semester, The Eagle will be boosting its online presence both on our newly redesigned website and on social media. We’ll be improving our work in video and continue to bring the news to you as it happens on live-blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Rather than you going to the news racks to pick up a copy of the paper, you’ll get more of the news from your laptop, tablet and smartphone. This transition will serve you, the reader, and make it easier for you to connect to your campus. There is such tremendous space for growth online, and the possibilities are endless.
We are only one of the many journalism organizations moving towards more online publishing. From Newsweek to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, journalists are cutting their print product entirely or in part. Across the country, more college newspapers are relying on student activity fees (53 percent, according to a study in the College Media Review by Florida International University’s Lillian Kopenhaver), and only 7 percent of college newspapers, ourselves included, rely solely on advertising revenue.
Now, we will look to diversify our revenue so we can continue to be a strong force for investigative journalism and breaking news that this campus deserves. We’ll be requesting to join the Student Media Board, an organization that allots 14 percent of your student activity fees to all of the student media outlets on campus.
We’ll also continue our fundraising drive to create an endowment through the University. So far, the hard work of our Board of Directors has raised over $11,000, well on our way to our $50,000 goal. Once that goal is reached, The Eagle will have secured another steady source of revenue that student journalists can rely on for years to come for technological innovation.
The Eagle is going to begin focusing on using multiple platforms, including desktop, mobile, social and, at least for this semester, print. We have the extraordinary opportunity to be both students and journalists, and we aim to turn The Eagle into a learning laboratory for digital journalism so we graduate with the skills we, and the journalism industry, so desperately need to continue to bring the news of the day straight to you.
Change in journalism does not mean its end. We’re just getting started.