Late last year, this newspaper announced it would cease publication on Fridays with the goal of giving reporters and editors an opportunity to experiment with online publication models. As the year comes to a close, I am pleased to announce that The Badger Herald will continue this march into training tomorrow’s journalists with a new, revamped publication model that prioritizes online reporting.
Beginning next year, the Herald will become an up-to-the-minute online source for news, thus giving readers more focused and consistently updated coverage of what happens in the University of Wisconsin community. Twice a week, the Herald will publish a print issue that hosts both the most important news of the week and a wide variety of feature content. And in a return to our roots, we will begin to pay proven reporters a small rate for each story they write.
We made it clear in November that the decision to cut our Friday issue was catalyzed by a change in our advertisers’ behavior that was causing a parallel change in the way our staff viewed the Herald’s financial sustainability. The challenges we have faced for the last several years are no different than the challenges other newspapers – national, metro, community and student papers alike – have faced with the rapid changes to journalism.
But I am not announcing this change with a mournful tone. Other student papers that have made similar decisions have lamented the rise of the Internet, criticized their student bodies for a lack of engagement or surrendered their independence to stay alive. None of these reactions to new media structures are part of the Herald’s resilient spirit of experimentation.
The future of student journalism will be online, not on a print page. This year’s Board of Directors made the decision to change our publication model and staffing structure with the knowledge that, within the next decade, newsprint’s function on college campuses will dwindle with the arrival of students who grew up reading news online. Print still serves an important function for both journalists and readers, but that function has changed along with the nature of breaking news.
Making this decision was not easy. We realize the risk involved in a completely independent student newspaper overhauling the way it produces content. But we are interested in maintaining the Herald’s sustainability as the publishing world goes through what we can describe, in non-hyperbolic terms, as a revolution.
Other student papers are sure to follow the Herald’s decision. Some others might hold out and keep a daily print presence longer.
We, however, are ready to enter online-first journalism without lamentation or regret. In the next several months, the community will begin to see changes to the Herald that will attract more readers and maintain its status as one of Madison’s leading news sources.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what happens.