Tuesday, September 8, 2009
UT Arlington student congress may end print version of campus newspaper
The Shorthorn will only be available online if the measure passes.
Students at the University of Texas at Arlington will lose the ability to read their morning newspaper if the school’s student congress passes a measure to stop the presses.
The school’s student government introduced a resolution that would restrict its student newspaper, The Shorthorn, to an online-only version as part of a series of environmentally friendly initiatives.
Any changes will require further research and discussion, The Shorthorn editor-in-chief Marissa Hall said.
The Shorthorn’s staff is working on improving the paper's website, which has fewer readers than the print version, she said.
“There’s ways to be creative online. We have to learn to adjust and work in different ways,” Hall said. “It’s not anything to get upset about at this point.”
Newspapers that go exclusively online tend to do so for business rather than environmental reasons, Neil Foote of the UNT journalism faculty said.
Newsprint is one of the biggest costs for a paper to maintain, and as ad and subscription revenues decline, newspapers have to cut back.
Other money-saving practices used by newspapers include smaller print size and narrower margins, he said.
The movement of more papers to exclusive online formats in the future will depend on whether advertisers decide they want more online ads, he said.
At present, there is still a sense from many readers that they want paper editions of the news. Readers who were brought up reading a daily print version often like to continue the tradition, Foote said.
“A lot of people like to cuddle up with a paper. How could you do that with a computer?” he said.
Former North Texas Daily adviser and journalism faculty member Tracy Everbach said the paper is not yet ready to go entirely online.
Student newspapers are different from city newspapers because they are available for pickup on campus, Everbach said.
Students are more likely to pick up a copy and read it on the way to class than they are to look up stories online, she said.
“Perhaps in the future it might be practical to have an online-only version, but I still think a paper version is vital on campus,” Everbach said.
A change to online-only content for the NT Daily would have serious consequences for the paper, NT Daily director Jacqi Serie said.
“If our print edition ceased to exist, the organization as a whole would probably shut down,” she said.
In a single fiscal year, ad revenue for the NT Daily averages $265,000 for print ads and $5,000 for online ads, she said.
If the Daily were to continue operating, staff positions would have to be completely redefined, and some full-time positions would have to be made part-time, she said.
Ad revenue for The Shorthorn could not be determined at this time.
After numerous attempts, Dakota Carter, president of the UNT Student Government Association, could not be reached for comment about the SGA’s stance on the issue.
Some UNT students said they liked both print and online versions of news, but did not feel too strongly about either.
“It depends on the setting,” Tony Steadman, an international studies freshman, said. “If it’s spur of the moment, I prefer online. Settings where there’s a long wait — definitely a newspaper.”
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