Three years ago in May, I sat on an old stool in my high school newspaper office. I did not know what life held past my days as the editor-in-chief of The Edge. Little did I know that it would mean three years later I would be in the same position, leaving another newspaper after my time as editor.
While at Sidelines, I watched this paper evolve and experience changes, some bad, some good. The number of copies distributed on campus has decreased each year. We changed the top of the masthead every year I have been on staff. We partnered with The Daily News Journal to help host our website and help with advertising.
But none of those changes alarm me as much as watching none of you pick up a newspaper in the printed form. Chances are, even now you are reading my words off the web, either on your phone or computer. Probably because of a Tweet or a Facebook posting.
You won’t pick it up. I see Sidelines stuffed on a rack on Wednesday, only to later tossed into a giant blue bin for recycling. It makes me a little disappointed, but I know you read us on the web. I read the metrics every month, sometimes daily.
Last fall the Public Relations campaigns class, the capstone course in the PR program, took on Sidelines as a client. They interviewed about 200 students during the semester, and what we learned was sobering.
Their analysis told us that our two biggest threats were producing a print product that “lacked appreciation,” and that students are more willing to consume media through a digital format. Of the students polled, most received their news from Facebook and Twitter. A small percentage found their news among the words on broadsheet or tabloid newspaper.
Their suggestion? Go digital. And go digital only.
Campus media serves a purpose. There are just some stories only the campus newspaper can produce. We cover your lives and how it intertwines with MTSU every day. That’s not something The Daily News Journal or The Tennessean can do for you.
This semester, Sidelines and its staff devoted a lot of its time for you to know the important aspects of what was going on our campus and to tell the stories of everyday students.
In February, we revealed resident complaints at the Aspen Heights town house complex. We told how the students were coping with high utility bills and cold apartments. Consequently, the complex reacted to your complaints.
We told readers of David “Ritt” Chitwood, a recording industry major who was tragically killed by a dump truck. We wrote profiles of other fallen students. We let you know when a student was murdered in his apartment complex. We were the first on the scene with MT10 News. We covered the SGA almost during all of its meetings, so you would know what’s going on.
This semester we told you of a student who lives out of his van, the girl who chooses extreme sports to relax, the musical talent that flows out of this school straight to Nashville, the players and coaches who make a difference on and off the field.
This past academic year we have had more than 65 people who have contributed stories, graphics, photos and videos to Sidelines. We tried to cover all the aspects of the facets of campus because its our job, but we are not doing a good job if we are continuing to produce a product in a form you will not read.
We want to focus on our digital presentation because we know that what we intersect with our biggest audience. We want to create an app that’s with you all the time. You will not have to go looking for us. We will come straight to you. That’s on our wish list for the future.
Sidelines cares about this campus, and the 15 members on the editorial staff are committed to the student body. We want to continue our success into the future and avoid failure, even if that means we change.
Change does not always mean something has to die; it could be the very element that enhances student media at MTSU.
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