Will College Papers Go the Way of Metro Papers?

Setting aside nostalgic pro-print sentiments (yes, overall I prefer reading things in print), is there much of an argument against a college paper going online-only? Given that such papers serve a demographic that grew up reading things online anyway, isn’t this a good way to save money and to force the papers’ staffers to pick skills that might actually help them find one of the two or three remaining jobs in journalism after they graduate?

The only rebuttal I sort of agree with has to do with how college students read the paper:

Former North Texas Daily adviser and journalism faculty member Tracy Everbach said the paper is not yet ready to go entirely online.

Student newspapers are different from city newspapers because they are available for pickup on campus, Everbach said.

Students are more likely to pick up a copy and read it on the way to class than they are to look up stories online, she said.

“Perhaps in the future it might be practical to have an online-only version, but I still think a paper version is vital on campus,” Everbach said.

That’s true. But if the paper wasn’t available to pick up online, wouldn’t students then turn to the online version? Most campus papers are in the enviable position of having a monopoly or near-monopoly on campus news, so they get to enjoy a captive audience. (What the professional papers wouldn’t give to get that back!)

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.