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News, minus the paper


Skidmore News staff may still feel jit- tery on Wednesdays—“the day that brought the dreaded 12-hour layout of the paper,” recalls Brendan James ’12, the editor-in-chief. But those weekly all- nighters are gone, traded in for the on- going deadlines of a digi- tal daily. The News went to an online-only format last fall.


In announcing the move, the editorial board shared high hopes for the new version and prom- ised, “Should we fail mis- erably, the print edition may return next semes- ter.” But they have not failed. Online page hits in the fall averaged 1,000 a day, reports managing editor Rebecca Orbach ’13. Of course they are saving a lot of money on paper and printing, but most important, she says, they are working to be a more timely and relevant news source. That means keeping to a solid pro-


Still, the editors are thoughtful about the pros and cons of the change. James was concerned that they guard against complacency: “It’s not such a huge deal if one story (or even two) doesn’t come through one day, but once you start ac-


few grumbles from students who liked to grab the newspaper on their way into the dining hall. But just as many used to decline a print version because they were already reading it online. By February the Skidmore News boasted some 350


ONLINE JOURNALISTS BRENDAN JAMES ’12, BECCA ORBACH ’13, AND GABE WEINTRAUB ’13


gramming schedule while also seeking out and responding quickly to news as it happens. “There’s more day-to-day work now,” says Orbach, but there’s a big pay- off in timeliness.


Editors of the print edition had to plan two weeks in advance, so if a story broke midweek it was nearly impossible to cover until the following issue, and “by then it would often be old news,” says Gabe Wein- traub ’12, manag- ing editor and webmaster. The Skidmore News up- graded its Web site in 2010 to accommo- date some daily postings, but Weintraub says it became too much to manage both print and online coverage. “We were reg- ularly getting scooped by blogs like Skid - more Unofficial,” he says. “We recognized that we’d never catch up if we main- tained the current system.”


“IT WAS A STRUGGLE TO CONVINCE MYSELF THAT IT WAS TIME TO LET GO OF THE PAPER NEWS.


BUT I FEEL STRONGLY THAT IT WAS FOR THE BEST.”


cepting that again and again, you find yourself looking back at a week of no output.” He says the stress, while not of the all-nighter variety, is perhaps “more extensive and punishing.” Weintraub worried about “putting too much of a burden on the section edi- tors,” but says they’ve managed to find a healthier balance. “We work more days each week, but the time required each day is much less.” A studio art and computer sci- ence major, Wein- traub had re-


designed the print edition last year. As someone who cares a lot about typogra- phy and what he calls tactile feedback, he admits that “it was a struggle to con- vince myself that it was time to let go” of the paper News. But, he adds, “I feel pretty strongly that it was for the best.” So do a lot of readers. There were a


“likes” on Facebook and 500 Twitter fol- lowers. James was receiving many more requests to contribute columns from fac- ulty members and student organizations. He says, “We’re happy to serve that pur- pose, as a conduit through which new conversations and debates can spread across campus.”


Even the competition has been im-


pressed. Skidmore Unofficial’s Rowley Amato ’13 weighed in early, writing in October: “Ever since the old girl went digital, I’ve seen a higher standard of journalism, better writing, and more interesting articles in general.” Soon the editors plan to expand their impact through a mobile app and live blogging, even while James, indulging a little inky nostalgia, admits to hoping that one day “the Skidmore News will re- turn to print and retain its new and im- proved online component.” For now, “the campus authority since 1925” is a decidedly 21st-century news daily. —KG


SPRING 2012 SCOPE 5


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