In the 1960s, a revolution distributed power away from publishers to writers.
A small duplicating machine started what is called the Mimeograph Revolution, allowing anyone to mass produce his or her messages for mere pennies. Suddenly, the voiceless had voices, and anyone with a mimeograph could become a publisher.
Flash forward to the 21st century — another revolution has started.
In what I call the Mimeograph Revolution 2.0, social media has allowed anyone to not only become a publisher again but also to start lasting organizations. As a result, I started The Intrepid — a daily newspaper at St. Bonaventure University that I maintain with two staff members.
Here’s how any college student can start his or her own newspaper:
Redefine what a newspaper is
Just like how the mimeograph redefined what could get published, the 21st century has changed what a newspaper’s identity is. Whether it’s the iPad-exclusive The Daily, the Web-only Huffington Post or various Twitter feeds, news no longer belongs solely on a physical newspaper.
Instead, readers now demand and prefer hyper-focused content from multiple sites, and this behavioral change has opened up a market for projects that most college students would love to do.
Find that niche
Read your college newspaper and listen to TV broadcasts for patterns. Are there any specific groups not getting coverage? Is there an abundance or absence of topics? Are there redundancies (i.e. an athletics website and campus newspaper regurgitating similar content)?
Regardless of the campus size and news frequency, all newsworthy stories cannot be told — and that is where you come in. Whether it becomes a newspaper that only features athlete profiles or reports on student government, a niche will be there. A little bit of research will show who, what and where the voiceless are. It’s your choice with the when and the how.
No equipment, no office, no problem!
It has never been easier — or cheaper — to start your own newspaper.
Free programs like GIMP, Scribus and OpenOffice.org have become suitable replacements for Photoshop, InDesign or Microsoft Office, respectively. iLife and Windows Live Essentials have become highly functional video editing programs.
Websites like Google Docs allow for a virtual newsroom, and other Google sites like Gmail, YouTube and Blogger can complete an organization’s needs. A smart phone like an iPhone or Droid can become a high-definition camera and camcorder, too. Also, tutorials are widely available online if you don’t know how to use any of the aforementioned things.
Starting a newspaper costs virtually nothing. (If you’re curious about printing cost, a brief overview will be provided at the end.) All you need is creativity and passion.
Quality over quantity. Consistency over frequency.
A blog by definition means a Web log, an online journal or notebook with unique content that posts on a consistent schedule. Or, in another words, an online newspaper.
Most cynics have said a newspaper cannot start on a blog because it lacks credibility. Instead, I argue that a newspaper only loses credibility depending on its content, not its website. Rather, an organization’s posting consistency and content uniqueness will directly correlate to a newspaper’s success and credibility.
In my opinion, a collection of 30 unique stories with newsworthy content spread over a month becomes more powerful than 100 so-so stories in the same time period. However, if you choose the quality-over-quantity route, understand that if one post has multiple errors or lacks originality, then the newspaper will lose readers.
How much time and effort does this take?
The Intrepid posts at least one story per day, but that became possible only after utilizing the university’s untapped resources.
There are reporters, photographers, videographers and designers outside of a campus newspaper or magazine. By being attentive and not afraid to ask for help, The Intrepid found contributing staffers.
Also, as cliché as it may be, a professor’s door is always open. Professors will not only want to help but will also be your biggest supporters, too.
But I want a full staff, a print version and modern equipment
An online newspaper can exist without funding because it’s, well, free. Print newspapers, however, are not.
Without going into too much detail, a weekly newspaper can pay around $20,000 a semester for printing. Kickstarter.com, a website that helps fund unique projects, may be able to help — but not for $20,000.
For most newspapers, a print version may not be financially feasible. However, alumni donations, student government funding, advertisements, a non-profit organization status and request grants may be some options.
Any other advice?
Don’t be afraid to experiment with how news gets reported. The Intrepid has tried to incorporate unconventional ideas such as using student and alumni tweets as sources for stories. The Intrepid also makes various informational graphics and teaser videos for future stories.
College students will develop the next profitable, self-sustaining newspaper model — and that model could come from your newspaper.
Also, take time to educate your staff and be open to your staff teaching you. I believe college newspapers should first and foremost have a teaching environment. The extra 30 minutes you spend teaching a staff writer your tips and tricks will pay off when he or she turns in a flawless story 30 days later.
And, finally, have fun. If you’re not having fun being a student journalist, you are definitely doing it wrong.
Powered by Facebook Comments