The Death of a High School Newspaper

I’m the guy who is killing the newspaper.  I’m going to shoot it right between the eyes and put it out of its misery.  Some might call it euthanasia, but let’s call it what it is—murder.

I’m the guy who is killing the newspaper.  I’m going to shoot it right between the eyes and put it out of its misery.  Some might call it euthanasia, but let’s call it what it is—murder.  There’s no way around it. 

The Broadcaster is the newspaper of Hershey High School, where I teach.  It’s published six times a year in two sections totaling about 50 pages.  Each issue carries around 40-50 stories.  Founded in 1926, The Broadcaster has had an illustrious publishing history and won dozens of awards.

Yet to teenagers, print news is dead.

There’s no way to sugar coat this issue.  The audience of The Broadcaster doesn’t get their news from a newspaper, a TV, or even a computer.  More often than not, the students of Hershey High get their information and entertainment from their smartphone.

The American Press Institute put it bluntly:

…adults with smartphones are also much more likely than non-mobile users to get news through search engines (61 percent vs. 31 percent); online news aggregators (61 percent vs. 33 percent); sharing with friends via email, text, or other online methods (54 percent vs. 29 percent); and electronic news alerts (38 percent vs. 19 percent).

Every major news organization is working hard to get the attention of their audience.  Today that means doing more than simply publishing a constantly updated web site, but reaching out to the audience with rapid updates via Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat.

CNN, the Daily Mail, and Yahoo News are on Snapchat!  Media watchers are calling the delivery of news via Snapchat a huge deal.  You go where the audience is, right?

But the elephant in the room for our own Old Gray Lady, The Broadcaster, is timeliness.  The news contained within those 50+ pages is very old by the time it gets into kids’ hands.  The timeliness of the information is minimal when the news cycle for The Broadcaster is not days or hours, but 6-8 weeks!

Additionally there is no interaction with a newspaper.  You pick it up, read it and move on.  Where is the conversation?  The debate?  We like to voice our opinion, but with our newspaper, the time from when I might voice my opinion—via a letter to the editor—to its possible publication could be more than a month. (Comments online are their own problem.)

Hi, I’m Rob.  I’m an English teacher, and I’m killing my school newspaper.

 

But I want it to be like a phoenix.  As I heap fuel on the fire, I’m hard at work building the framework for something new, different, and better will emerge from the ashes.

Why’s that? Because I’m going to built something better with the help of my journalism students.  Next time I’ll spell out what ideas I have for the new Broadcaster….

 

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Does your school have a news outlet created by the students?  What’s it look like?  Does the student body engage with it?  How?

Do you read the newspaper daily or do you get your news online?  Does the death of print news rankle your sensibilities?  What’s the solution?