Texas Christian University’s student newspaper, The Daily Skiff, has transitioned to a “digital first model”, and is now working as part of a converged, multimedia news organization called TCU360.
In May, I was hired as the editor-in-chief of Texas Christian University’s student newspaper, The Daily Skiff. Like the editors-in-chief before me, I romanticized late nights of putting together the paper, poring over printed pages and working with designers.
But over the summer, TCU joined a small, yet growing bandwagon in the journalism world: “Digital first.”
Within three months, all distinctions between our newspaper, broadcast and online news staff at TCU360.com were wiped away and the leadership structures reworked. From the dust rose a new, completely converged, multimedia news organization simply known as TCU360 — and my new title, news director.
As “one big news team,” all 54 student reporters work for TCU360 regardless of their story’s medium. Content is published on the website and social media throughout the day, seven days a week. The Daily Skiff, still published Tuesday through Friday, acts as an aggregator of the week’s best content.
The “leadership team” consists of an executive editor (think: editor-in-chief) as well as four other top editors, including myself. Below us, all reporters work in six “teams” — headed by one seasoned reporter — that cover specific topics ranging from public safety to student organizations.
TCU360 Executive Editor Lexy Cruz said the team structure helps rookie reporters get their foot in the door to student media and feel more comfortable in what could be a daunting organization.
“I think what’s happened now is that we’ve become more collaborative, in that we have a team sense now instead of a sole reporter, out on your own, doing whatever to make your grade,” Cruz said.
A handful of other universities have also made dramatic changes to their student media outlets.
The University of Oregon’s Daily Emerald made headlines in the news industry recently when they announced an end to 92 years of daily publication. Shifting to a bi-weekly schedule, the two editions each week will be interest-driven — one focusing on news and sports and the other on entertainment and features.
The University of Texas – Arlington student newspaper, The Shorthorn, reduced its print frequency to once a week, focusing on publishing content online and utilizing social media.
Savannah College of Art and Design has completely eliminated its print product, now featuring the online-only District.
And these changes in student media may indicate coming changes in the professional journalism world.
Giving students a competitive edge in the job market was a large motivation behind TCU360’s convergence, said John Lumpkin, director of the TCU Schieffer School of Journalism.
“We were not forced into this [convergence] because of financial necessity dealing with our print frequency,” Lumpkin said. “The seeds of this were sown in 2010 to prepare [students] for what the jobs will be like when they graduate.”
And student journalists see their generation’s media consumption habits are different than generations before.
“[Digital-first] is the way professional media should become,” Cruz said. “By the time I’m 30, I’m going to use my iPad for news, not a newspaper. I know I’m going to want my news now.”
At TCU360, we want to anticipate and to act on the changes to come, rather than getting left in the dust of other student media trailblazers.
Perhaps Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor for Digital First Media, put it best in an article for the Nieman Journalism Lab last month.
“The choice for student media is simple: Slide into irrelevancy even faster than professional media that fail to adapt, or race into the digital future and help show them the way,” he wrote.
Learn more about the changing world of student journalism.
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