Sunday, November 18, 2007

Student newspapers are doing something right

While newspaper executives around the country wring their hands about declines in readership and rack their brains about how to bring in younger readers, student newspapers continue to thrive.

Perhaps the professionals should be looking to student papers for the answers.

In fact, some of them are.

In her blog, Run of Paper, this week, Jody Reese, publisher of a small group of free newspapers and magazines in Manchester, New Hampshire, writes about the success of college papers.

"Despite Facebook and Myspace, college kids still read their campus newspapers, in print," Reese writes. "What does it say about the death of newspapers that as many as 76 percent of college kids say they have read one of the last five issues of their college newspaper?" (The statistic comes from a 2006 report from Y2M: Youth Media & Market Networks and College Publisher that also found 44 percent of students read their college papers in print at least twice per week and 33 percent pick them up at least once per month. By comparison, only 28 percent of college students regularly read their community papers in print -- and even fewer read community papers online.)

"It says that nothing is wrong with the medium of the newsprint," Reese continues. "It should loudly remind newspaper companies that it's their poor content that is driving younger readers away for their products, not college students' lack of interest in civic affairs or the internets."

While I agree with Bryan Murley and the folks at the Center for Innovation in College Media that student newspapers need to beef up their Web sites and embrace new media, clearly college newspapers are doing something right in print.

For one thing, they're hyperlocal, just as Rob Curley of Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, suggests all papers should be.

"There's no more local paper than a campus paper," Dina Pradel, general manager of Y2M, which founded College Publisher in 1999, told The Baltimore Sun last year.

Good student newspapers write about people, places and events at a college or university that are often ignored by mainstream media. The more college papers can stick to this philosophy, the more targeted the coverage, the more successful they will be.

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