Posts Tagged ‘The Badger Herald’

The Badger Herald, one of two independent student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be ending its Friday print edition.  In a phone chat this afternoon, editor-in-chief Ryan Rainey cited “a noticeable change in the way advertisers are behaving” and an interest in focusing on digital innovation as two core reasons behind the change.  It will be announced to readers on Monday in an editor’s column by Rainey.

Rainey said he is excited to shift the newsroom culture on Thursday nights to what he’s dubbed a “voluntary sandbox,” in which creative, digital-first coverage ideas will be sketched out, batted around, and potentially implemented by the staff.  He also stressed the paper will remain in print, as always, Mondays through Thursdays.  In his words, “This is purely a Friday switch at this point.  We still consider ourselves a daily newspaper.”

He said salary levels for the paper’s roughly 55 paid staffers are being adjusted, simply due to the fact that “there’s going to be one less print edition, which means one less day of revenue.”

Here are Rainey’s words to me, in full:

We’ve been experiencing a noticeable change in the way advertisers are behaving.  We’ve decided that it’s in our best interests to rethink our publication model.  This means on Thursday nights, which used to be for Friday papers, we’re going to have sort of a voluntary sandbox.  Employees will be able to come in and work a normal night, but we’re not going to be bound by the deadlines we have for our print edition and things like that. . . . So people can experiment with some of the changes of what a new online model would look like or how we can do better coverage online.

“One thing I’m very happy about is when we announced these changes to the staff, everyone was on board.  There really was a great reaction from the staff.  Everyone seemed interested in volunteering and being part of what I’m calling a sandbox because I think that’s the most accurate way to describe it.  What we’re doing is brainstorming how we can change our workflow– because one of the biggest problems we have is that when we set the pages of the newspaper at 1 or 2 in the morning all the articles go online.  In the Madison market, we think of ourselves as competitors to not just The Daily Cardinal [the other independent student paper at UW-Madison] but The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal. We want to make sure when we find breaking news we don’t have to wait to publish it when the [next day’s print] pages are sent.  We want to be able to have a constant, 24/7 workflow.

“So we’re going to try for the rest of the semester to figure out what practices work best with that and what don’t, considering we’re also students, and see how it goes. On Monday, everyone who’s interested is going to be sitting down with me and we’re going to be having a brainstorming session. . . .

“We decided to cut Friday because it’s the day when students are on campus the least. It’s almost like a weekend.  The weekend pretty much starts on Thursday.  But there’s still news happening, which is why we’re doing the online edition.  At the same time, we also noticed that’s when our advertising was at its lowest.  We had considered other editions that we might cut, but we thought in the interest of continuity and for the reasons I listed earlier, it would be best to do away with Friday.

“This is purely a Friday switch at this point.  We still consider ourselves a daily newspaper.  I know that there are other daily student newspapers like this [printing four days a week]. . . . It’s definitely not indicative of any major problems that we have.  We’re just responding to changes in [advertiser] behavior and seeing what we can do to adjust to that so that in the next several years as things continue to change we’re not surprised by what advertisers decide to do or how the publication model works.

[How does he feel about the paper’s financial health overall going forward?] “I’m actually extremely optimistic.  Since we’re a completely independent business– we don’t get any money from the university and all of our revenue comes from advertising– we are in a unique position for student newspapers.  With that, you have to deal with some of the ebbs and flows of the economy and how the non-profit business works.  The reason I’m so optimistic is I think the entire process we’re going to be going through– with the sandbox on Thursdays and some of the experimentation we’re going to be doing over the next several months– is a way to make sure we’re diversifying and changing our business and publication model so that the paper can keep going and make it through some of these really momentous changes that are happening in the publishing industry.”

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The latest rankings report listing the country’s “Best College Newspapers has been released by Princeton Review.  The papers are listed below, in order of their selection.

Penn State’s Daily Collegian vaulted to the top, following in the footsteps of its CMM “College Newspaper of the Year” honors earlier this summer.

The Daily Kansan moved up dramatically as well.  The Red & Black, The Michigan Daily, The Daily Nexus at UC Santa Barbara, The Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University, and The Technician at North Carolina State University all jumped onto the list after not appearing on the 2011 version.  Meanwhile, The Daily Northwestern and The Daily Texan suffered big drops.  The Battalion at Texas A&M had the biggest spiral– dropping from the list after appearing at #5 last year.  The Minnesota Daily, The Daily Mississippian, The Daily Campus at UCONN, and The Hilltop at Howard University also disappeared from the current version.


The Princeton Review rankings are not without controversy.  As Bryan Murley from the Center for Innovation in College Media confirmed two summers ago, the process by which these papers achieve the “Best” distinction is, well, fairly ridiculous.

Yet, the rankings receive more attention from the public and mainstream media than every other student journalism contest and competition, including the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker awards (the closest the student press has to the Pulitzer Prizes).  Why?  My guess, without sarcasm or cynicism: It’s an offshoot of the attention given to the sexier rankings such as “Best Party Schools.”

1. The Daily Collegian, Penn State University

2. The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina

3. Yale Daily News, Yale University

4. The Brown Daily Herald, Brown University

(Tie) 5. The Badger Herald, University of Wisconsin-Madison

(Tie) 5. The Daily Cardinal, University of Wisconsin-Madison

6. The University Daily Kansan, Kansas University

7. The Diamondback, University of Maryland

8. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

9. The Daily Nexus, UC Santa Barbara

10. The Red & Black, University of Georgia

11. The Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell University

12. The Rocky Mountain Collegian, Colorado State University

13. The Daily Orange, Syracuse University

14. The Daily Gamecock, University of South Carolina

15. The Tufts Daily, Tufts University

16. The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan

17. The Post, Ohio University

18. Technician, North Carolina State University

19. The Daily Texan, University of Texas at Austin

20. The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University


College Newspaper of the Year, 2011-2012: The Daily Collegian, Penn State University

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It will focus on “everything college life.”  RED, a new, ambitious general-interest student magazine has launched at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the promise, “You haven’t read a magazine until you’ve read RED.”



The founders pitch RED as a “central publication to the university.”  They aim to fill a niche, ironically, by focusing bigger picture, attempting to present a must-read for all students beyond the many student mags more narrowly tailored to those of specific backgrounds or interests. 


According to co-founder Sydney Burdick, a UW-Madison junior: “Although there’s a diversity of students on campus and we all have our own things going on, we all have our own interests, we’re all Badgers.  We can all be our individual personalities, but on game day, we’re all red and we’re all Badgers.”


The Badger Herald, the student newspaper at UW-Madison, isn’t buying.  In an editorial headlined “Better dead than RED,” the sarcasm leapt off the page:    


The University of Wisconsin-Madison could use a little help in a few key areas. . . . However, one could hardly argue we suffer from a dearth of student publications on campus. In addition to the two student newspapers, there is a music-oriented quarterly, a humanities-oriented quarterly, the occasional rogue satire newspaper and a per-semester cultural arts magazine published in conjunction with the journalism school. Add in the Wisconsin State Journal, Isthmus, Onion and Capital Times, and it’s obvious there is no lack of reading material on this campus.  But, apparently, you haven’t read anything “until you’ve read RED.”  Yeah, we thought it was a typo too.


Wow.  In newspeak, those are fighting words!  Any thoughts?

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