Student newspaper takes on electronic venue for 2010 school year

October 22, 2010

PLAINVIEW – In its 61 years of existence, Wayland Baptist University’s campus newspaper has seen its share of changes. Some have been name changes, others to the format and, of course, staff fluctuations occur annually for a student publication.

But the latest change the Trail Blazer newspaper is a sign of the way newspapers in general are moving: online. Starting with the first issue in October, the student newspaper is being released as on electronic edition in partnership with the Baptist Standard, the newsmagazine of Texas Baptists, published out of Dallas.

The Standard’s electronic edition, called E3, was released several years ago and features enhanced content that is made simple with the online delivery but cannot be done in the traditional print format. The paper approached Wayland’s adviser, Steve Long, about joining forces to produce a shared issue and after several months of discussion and surveys, Wayland opted to begin the experiment. 

“It was an easy decision for me to make,” said Long, who also serves as assistant professor of communication and media studies at Wayland. “The students can still do much of the work and our software has a video editing aspect to it so they students can do the video work too.”

Long said the paper comes in an email format to each Plainview campus employee and student through actual subscriptions purchased by the university. Readers can click through to the online content and actually “flip” the pages electronically to read the Standard’s edition. The Trail Blazer is added at the end with the same format.

The key difference is that enhanced content. The electronic delivery allows for additional photos to be viewed from events, like the recent Degree of Difference Day service effort around Plainview. While space limitations in print allow for only a few photos to be used typically, the electronic version allows for a Power Point of photos to be loaded and viewed with the click of a mouse. Video clips from various events are also able to be imbedded and viewed with the stories.

“We still design the newspaper in InDesign and send them a PDF version. We also send them Flash video files and Power Point and they combine them with their electronic edition and send them out by email,” Long said.

Despite the lack of paper copies, Long said students are still getting a complete journalism experience since they write stories, shoot photographs, report on events and do opinion pieces. But Long said the experience is even richer when the video and other content is added to the mix.

“This is real-life use of the technology that’s out there,” Long said. “We do have to rethink how we do the print versions because of deadlines that we face with the electronic versions that are different.”

Long added that the university will produce print editions of the Trail Blazer for Thanksgiving and Christmas this semester and then probably another 3-4 issues in the spring term, including one that is distributed during the school’s homecoming festivities in late February. Otherwise, they’ll be delivering via email for the remainder of the school year, then reevaluate at the close of the spring term.

Long said while the electronic format does have a bit of a learning curve for readers – including the wait time while images sharpen after magnification – research is showing that more and more newspaper readers are enjoying the online format and enhanced content that many metropolitan papers are including. He hopes the same will hold true for the student newspaper at Wayland, especially among students.

“This is really where a lot of people are going these days, and people seem to like the electronic editions (of papers),” Long said. “I can see a growth in this if we wanted to include our other campuses and include a page for stories about them.”