Monday, September 17, 2007

Daily '49er fights online-only publication

Editors at The Daily 49er at California State University Long Beach are fighting an administration suggestion that the newspaper consider going to online-only publication.

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore," Editor-in-chief Bradley Zint wrote in an opinion piece on Monday that echoed the famous line in the movie "Network."
"I am pretty upset right now, and I'm not going to take this without a fight - a fight as in written words like this, public discussions and peaceful methods."

In a front-page article headlined "Death of the 49er print edition?" the newspaper reported Monday that Gerry Riposa, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is considering moving the paper to online-only publication. On Friday Riposa outlined plans to conduct a feasibility study to assess whether the campus might be better served by a Web-only newspaper.

"There are many different alternative [forms of a newspaper]," the newspaper quotes Riposa as saying. "There are some who want strictly print, some who want more electronic and one edition of print, a few who want both and some who want electronic form only. ... Maybe it's my political science background, but first I make a hypothesis, then I do research, then I make conclusions."

Daily Forty-Niner General Manager Beverly Munson is quoted in the article as saying that an online-only newspaper is a financially premature move.

"Half a percent of our ad revenue comes from online [advertisements]," Munson said. "If the Forty-Niner were to go online only, it would have about $500 ad revenue annually. We're not ready for this. We're not ready to go online only."

In a sidebar, The Daily 49er gathers reaction to the story from journalism educators and college newspapers around the country.

Interestingly, the articles came out in The Daily 49er at the same time we printed comments from Sean Gallagher of the Los Angeles Times encouraging student papers to go to online-only publication. The post drew a number of heated comments on both the College Media Advisers listserv and this blog.

Personally, I'm concerned that this move is coming from the top down. If students choose to kill their print edition, that's one thing. But for an administrator to impose such a change smacks of censorship.

What would you do if administrators at your university wanted to move to Web-only publishing? Is this a trend we'll see more of? Post your comments below.

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