Monday, March 10, 2014

Student vote could possibly end UCCS' newspaper

Posted By on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 2:12 PM

click to enlarge Part of a flyer touting the paper's efforts towards sustainability.
  • Part of a flyer touting the paper's efforts towards sustainability.
A 2010 sustainability initiative that began in a geography and environmental studies class may ultimately kill the print edition of The Scribe, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' student newspaper founded in 1966. It might all depend on how a vote plays out over the coming days.

Here's how a recent editorial described the initial 2010 vote that requires the paper to kill its print edition by Aug. 1, 2015, which 176 students voted for, and 104 against, in a campus of 8,500 at the time:

"Considering more than three times the number of students that voted to do away with this print newspaper actually pick up this print newspaper every week, it’s a tough sell to think students as a whole don’t like having this print newspaper," the piece says. "It’s a piece of history and a piece of UCCS."

"I see it as important for all students," says UCCS professor and Scribe advisor Laura Eurich (who also periodically pens a column for the Indy and often sends us interns). "Number one, we are the watchdog. And number two, it is an educational opportunity — mostly [for] communications majors but we have plenty of non-communication majors who work there. And, really, with a lack of journalism programs in the state it is a little bit of a lab for journalism. ... It would be like asking chemistry students to learn chemistry without the chemicals in the lab."

One fear is that if this follow-up vote being held from today until March 14 is unsuccessful, then a digital-only presence won't be sufficient to inform the campus. The paper currently prints around 600 copies, and just moved the process to a local printer using soy ink on biodegradable paper. Previous experiments with web exclusives yielded low readership.

"In last year's academic year, we did some online-only editions, because of budgeting, and we really did find our readership was down when it was online-only," says Eurich. "Because people don't seek it out — they pick it up because they're on their way to class and there's a rack in front of them."

The paper says it also sold around $12,000 in print advertising last year, which was used to pay back debt and offset costs normally covered by student fees. Because the newspaper's site is moving to a server hosted by UCCS, it would be unable to sell ads of any kind there.

And either way, the readership's not there, says editor-in-chief Jesse Byrnes in an email: "For some large outlets it makes sense to have an online-only format," he writes, "but The Scribe doesn't have the online readership of a BuzzFeed or HuffPo to generate the online ad revenues that we've been able to generate through print."

"We do already have an iPhone app, and our Green Action Fund has approved creating an Android app as well, so if our paperless re-resolution fails, we will have money from the Green Action Fund to create a Droid app," says Eurich. "So, no matter what platform you're on, you'll be able to have an app for The Scribe — but I still don't think that's going to make people read it. ...

"I mean, we need to be everywhere anyway, but without that print version to remind people that we exist, and if our numbers come down, I wouldn't blame student government for not funding us in the future, if we don't have a solid readership."

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