Open letter

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September 13, 2012 by Judy Gibbs Robinson

Here’s an open letter from the Student Media staff to the OU community, describing the motivation for the Imagine study:

Each semester since The Oklahoma Daily was founded in 1916, new students show up in our newsroom, learn the ropes, then try their hand as stewards of this newspaper, the independent voice of the students at the University of Oklahoma.

These students make all decisions about what the industry calls “content” — the stories, photos, videos, columns, cartoons and reviews that fill the newspaper’s editorial columns.

But they don’t work alone. They are supported by a small professional staff here in Student Media to advise them, serve as institutional memory, keep the department fiscally sound, and plan for the future.

To meet that last charge – planning for the future – we need your help. We need to know how OU students, faculty, staff, advertisers and alumni consume media today and where they expect to get their campus news tomorrow.

Media technology is changing at a blinding pace. Think of this: For the first 79 years of its existence, The Daily was a five-day-a-week print publication during the fall and spring. In the last 17 years, we have added:

  • A prize-winning website, OUDaily.com
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Social media

Those additions have led to challenges as our students struggle to provide you with news and information on a 24/7 cycle with about the same size staff as we had when there was one print deadline a night. Period.

So workload is an issue. So is recruiting and training students with the high-tech skills needed to run a digital news operation with all the bells and whistles our media-savvy audience expects.

Time is an issue, too, as our deadlines compete with classwork and, frequently, outside jobs.

Even as The Daily grapples with these digital-first challenges, the media landscape continues to morph. We know from studies that digital news consumption is still rising, more readers are going mobile and the importance of social media is growing.

While audiences reap the benefits of abundant news in this information age, the changes haven’t been good for the bottom line at organizations like ours. The truth is that online ad revenue gains are not keeping pace with print ad revenue losses, here or elsewhere.

Around the country, other student-run news organizations are taking bold steps to address these changes. Some have ceased daily print publication to focus on their websites. Some are experimenting with digital subscriptions. Some are searching for new digital ways to serve readers.

Instead of blindly following them, we are turning to you for help finding our path into the future. We are certain only of this: Whatever we do, it must advance our twin missions to build our university community by providing news and information, and to prepare student staff for a changing media workplace when they graduate.

Cognizant of these challenges and aware of these trends, OU Student Media launches this study to determine how best to serve our unique community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and advertisers. Questions we hope you will help us answer include these:

  • How are readers now using The Oklahoma Daily’s print, online and social media content?
  • Does OUDaily.com provide the right mix of text, photography, video, podcasts, interactive graphics and interactivity?
  • What is the right number of print editions per week for this community, considering readership, cost and tradition?
  • Do we need a tablet or mobile application?
  •  Will advertisers respond to changes in the print-digital mix should readers desire it?
  • Are there other products or services we could provide to better serve the community?

We invite you to participate. Attend the events if you can. If you can’t, complete the survey and follow other developments on the blog, imaginedfuture.wordpress.org.

Help us imagine the future of campus media in this digital age so that when The Daily celebrates its 100th birthday a few years from now, the next 100 years will look just as bright.

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