A Los Angeles Times editor challenged student newspaper editors from around California to "stop killing trees" and try online-only publishing.
"Kill your paper," Sean Gallagher, the LATimes.com's managing editor for section development, told about 60 college newspapers editors who gathered at UCLA Saturday for an editors training session sponsored by the California College Media Association. "Stop publishing your print paper."
He suggested student newspapers "take the money from dead trees and put it into training."
Student journalists, Gallagher said, need to develop skills in database building, Flash, multimedia reporting and other new media tools.
Gallagher's presentation, "Getting Serious About Your Web Site," was one of half a dozen sessions at the fourth annual College Editors Boot Camp, sponsored by the California College Media Association, a statewide organization of four-year college media organizations and journalism programs. The organization also sponsored a daylong training for student newspaper ad salespeople on Saturday.
Gallagher urged the student editors to think about the visual side of storytelling and to find ways to interact with readers.
"That old model of us to them, it's dead," he said. "Now it's about blogs, Flash, other multimedia presentations."
Among the ideas he presented for student newspapers to try:
* Set up message boards. "You'll see there are topics (readers) want to talk about and some they don't."
* Run capsule reviews in print. Tease to the full reviews online.
* Post useful information online. He suggested things like bus schedules, gym hours, where to buy tickets for student performances. "It goes back to local, local, local."
* Post stories on the Web first. "A lot of people say, 'Don't put it on the Web yet, I want that in print first.' It's that print mentality you need to throw off. It's gone."
* Set up flat screen monitors around campus. Once they're in cafeterias, student lounges and other student gathering spots you can display the college newspaper Web site on them, giving you a captive audience.
* Sell online sponsorships. Invite advertisers to sponsor podcasts of an on-campus lecture series or other special features.
* Take on a database project. One example: get the office hours of all the professors on campus and monitor whether the profs show up. Publish the results in a searchable database. "That would be a great resource for the campus."
* Send out e-mail alerts.
* Look for student experts. Even if you don't know how to build a database or design a flash presentation, you can learn from other students who do. "There are people on your campus who have the knowledge. They want to be able to put it on their resume, 'I built this Web site.' They want to say to a potential employer, 'I did this graphic.'
Disclosure: The writer is vice president of the California College Media Association.