When Jill Abramson was named executive editor of the New York Times, several editors – incoming and outgoing – offered their takes on the biggest challenges she would face in her tenure. Among them was a realization that is beginning to dawn on journalists across the globe. Former New York Times Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati put it bluntly when he spoke about the Times in an interview with the New Yorker, “We’re not just a newspaper anymore.”
The changing role of newspapers is becoming increasingly evident at the college level, too. Is The Brown Daily Herald just a newspaper anymore? Over the past two decades, The Herald has gained a website, a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and now even an Instagram account. And over winter break, we will be rolling out a more user-friendly website that offers a sleeker, more functional interface. The Herald is enhancing its online presence to accommodate a readership that increasingly consumes its news online. But what is more difficult to discern are the other ways – both in terms of news content and delivery – The Herald needs to adapt to changing times. We need to reevaluate how best to serve the student body.
In the past, college newspapers served as a student’s primary source of information about campus happenings. If you wanted to know what shows were coming up, what issues other students were protesting or what changes were happening in University administration, you consulted your campus newspaper. Now, that information is being fired at you from countless different angles: Facebook, listservs, emails, text message blasts. Though The Herald can contextualize that information, explain its importance and better inform uninvolved parties about campus activities, you don’t really need us to tell you what’s happening on campus.
But campus newspapers still have a very important and relevant role: to investigate and report the news. As an independent newspaper, we have the responsibility and the capacity to ask difficult questions about issues that have a profound effect on the student body and take a critical perspective on campus and local news. News industry analyst Ken Doctor wrote in a Nov. 29 Nieman Journalism Lab article, “We live in an age of way too much. People want context, not more content.” Since news is everywhere, The Herald’s job is to help our readers find the deeper meaning.
Similar trends are cropping up across the country. In spring 2009, students at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California started a now widely successful website called Neon Tommy that aims to provide in-depth news coverage of issues marginalized by other media outlets. In April, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Investigative News Network announced the launch of a new YouTube channel – funded by an $800,000 grant from the Knight Foundation – to highlight investigative reporting from outlets including the New York Times, National Public Radio and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The second question is how best to present such reporting – and that’s where you come in. We want to know both how you consume your news and what subjects interest you. Do you read our website? Check in with our Twitter? Pick up our print edition? Do you want to know more about the inner workings of the University? How the University fits in with the larger culture of higher education institutions? What your peers are doing?
As the news industry continues to change – perhaps the realm of college newspapers fastest of all – we are determined to stay relevant and to maintain a voice on campus. Most of all, we want to know how to serve you best. If you have ideas, we ask that you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise to take your ideas to heart.
Thanks for reading.
Today’s editorial was written by The Herald’s editorial board. Send comments to email@example.com.