CSULB student paper may go online only

The editor of the Cal State Long Beach Daily 49er is not happy with news that his paper may scrap the print edition and go online only. It hasn’t happened just yet — according to a story in their Monday paper, the dean of the college that oversees the paper wants to study the feasibility of going online only and such a change wouldn’t happen for at least another year.

That could mean no more print newspaper Monday through Thursday. That could mean no more grabbing the paper to read from class to class. That could mean no more cutting out noteworthy clips or sharing them with those on the other side of the great Digital Divide.

Or, worse yet, that could mean no more using the Daily Forty-Niner as a cover on those rare Southern California rainy days. Tell me which website can do that for you.

But, all lame jokes aside, I don’t think I need to elaborate much on the importance of a daily, student-run campus newspaper of record for this campus, which, by the way, has a population greater than many cities and is the third largest in the state.

There’s a little saying that proliferates this campus nowadays. It hangs from light posts like some kind of Beach Pride propaganda.

It says we’re “Among the Nation’s Best.”

Does a university that’s “Among the Nation’s Best” turn its back to one of its oldest traditions? Does it stomp on its chronicler of campus history that also serves as the starting point for its students’ futures?

Does the university want to be the only major American university without a daily college newspaper? Does it want to take the “paper” out of newspaper?

I feel for the guy. I really do. If I were in the position he is in now, I’d be pretty upset myself. One of the cool things about being a student journalist was having that tangible, ink-staining newspaper in your hands, made up of your hard work.

But I’m not sure if he should have such a hissy fit. There are a lot of newspapers out there having problems. Newspapers are cutting back. Some are in danger of being closed. Times are tough. And while it is an unfortunate state of affairs, you gotta take the lemons and make lemonade.

Plus, how do students feel about the prospect of having an online-only paper? It seems the reaction story published today only quoted staffers from other college papers and college officials. Do the students even care? Would they rather it be online only? Would that mean they wouldn’t read the paper at all? Or would they read it more, since its online and easier to surf/email/IM/read on their phones?

I’m not sure. I guess these are questions that will only be answered after the study. But in all honesty, I don’t think it will go online only. I believe for a student newspaper, a hybrid of the two¬† — possibly a smaller, maybe tabloid? version of the paper on a possibly weekly basis? — would be a better idea, along with a robust online presence would be good. After all, students still need to learn newspaper design. And with the prospect of having support for an online product, the possibilities are endless.

3 thoughts on “CSULB student paper may go online only

  1. Yusef Robb

    I was a college newspaper editor, and I remember that the “finality” of a printed copy is what drove me and my collegues to strive for perfection. Online only means no firm deadlines and the opportunity to edit at will. A college newspaper is the most important learning tool for young reporters. Will all due respect to hardworking journalism professors, a semester at a “real” paper teaches more than all 4 years of coursework combined. An online only paper, which allows for sloppy journalism by virtue of its impermanence, does not serve students well.

  2. Darleene

    Yusef, as an online person, trust me — online doesn’t mean no firm deadlines; It means you’re ALWAYS on deadline. If you’re online, you need to get things up ASAP and first. And yes, it does mean an opportunity to edit at will, but as bloggers learn the hard way, edits have to be acknowledged.

  3. Chris L.

    I am a graduate of CSULB’s journalism program and wrote for the Daily 49er for a year and edited the summer edition.

    The 49er going online only would be a terrible mistake. I knew from experience that not too many students read the dead-tree version of the paper. More readers were faculty than students. An online audience would get even less eyeballs than the print paper.

    Cal State Long Beach is a commuter campus. The CSU system is expansive through California, so for most students it’s not an isolated four-plus year adventure away from home. Over 85% of students lived (and live) within 50 miles of campus. CSULB does not have the school spirit of most other universities. That also means activities such as working on — or reading — the campus newspaper aren’t such a high priority for the student body.

    With that said, keeping the newspaper is vital to the campus. Most students are not going to follow the transition to online, and the readership would be even more concentrated to faculty and employees.

    It’s also important to the journalism students, as writing in a newspaper is final and authoritative. It compels the writer to focus on being factual, concise and interesting. The problem with online journalism is that it’s well … online.

    The internet is more than just a tool to find news. Anything and everything can be found there. And that’s a problem, one that most media managers should keep in mind. On the internet, newspapers and other media outlets are not competing with one another for the best story. Millions of web sites, with all sorts of purposes, must compete with one another for audience attention. The internet has transformed information at a size and scope unprecedented in human civilization, but it has not figured out how to make more than 24 hours in a day.

    News must compete with every other bit of information on the internet, as an ever-expanding number of sites must grab a slice of a static 24-hour pie. And there’s a hierarchy of what audiences gravitate to:
    1. Porn. Seriously. Pornographic sites have been the most viable businesses on the net since mass use started in the 1990s. The internet made porn private, instantaneous and inexpensive — better than all other distribution channels. And, well, it’s porn. Nuff said.
    2. Entertainment. Most people use the internet the way they use TV: as a source of amusement. It’s a movie house, video game arcade and public library from a small box.
    3. Information. People seek out information the way they seek out food when they’re starving. Notice, though, it’s less important than sex and amusement. And when they do seek out information, it will be the way they have done so with TV: gravitate toward the most recognized brand with the most video.

    The internet is going to make online news, especially for a campus, pushed back into a darker corner than it already is. On the other hand, print media is strengthening as it’s weakening. It becomes harder for new players to establish themselves in print, and the more print outlets are cut back, the stronger the remaining players become.

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