Recently, the student newspaper The Advance announced its switch from a physical newspaper to an online publication. At the helm of this decision are Editor In Chief Natalie Richardson ’13 and Audrey Cunningham ’05, assistant professor of communication and adviser of the newspaper.
“I think the switch is really good because now, instead of the students receiving news two weeks later or even further after an event has happened, they can get it within two or three days of the event happening,” said Richardson.
She went on to explain how it will now be much easier for Hiram students to stay connected and to keep up on the latest Hiram events. And with Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts, The Advance has broadened its scope of communication, allowing for even quicker updates.
The switch was something that Cunningham had been pushing for a long time, and Hiram’s website redevelopment which took place during this summer coincided nicely with the decision to switch to online—there was finally a reason to update The Advance free of administrative restraints with the new, more flexible web structure.
“I thought it would be useful for us to be more current and immediate,” she said. “I also thought it would be a great way to save on publishing costs so that we could divert some of that money to our student workers.”
Cunningham is herself a Hiram alumna. When she was editor for The Advance, and even for a brief period early on when she was the adviser, the writers were paid. She thought it would be a good idea to bring this concept back. While she said there are great opportunities in writing for the paper and that it would make sense for students to be interested solely for the experience, she admits that it is very much a job for some people. And now that The Advance is not spending money on physical issues of the newspaper or for transportation fees (the papers were printed in Ashtabula County and then driven out to Hiram), the student-led group has the funding to begin paying writers again.
Aside from the quicker turnout of news, the switch to an online publication brings with it plenty of other benefits.
“It makes the publication process easier,” said Richardson. “We’re now using WordPress, so all our writers can upload their stories, and I don’t have to check my email four times an hour to keep track of all the articles coming in!”
“Multimedia is a great benefit,” Cunningham added. “We can add things like photo essays and video stories and those kinds of things, which will liven up the paper and help to draw in a larger crowd.”
Of course, the switch also has a few drawbacks. Richardson explained how it will now be necessary to get students to take a more active approach to checking The Advance for news—they won’t simply find copies in the dining hall or the Kennedy Center. And for the sentimentalists, you can’t get ink on your fingers with an online publication.
But the pros outweigh the cons, and the switch was not only beneficial but necessary.
“For our purposes, it just doesn’t make sense to print a thousand copies of a paper about last week’s news,” Cunningham said.
Richardson views the switch as an opportunity for The Advance to grow as an organization, and she has some ambitious goals.
“I’d like The Advance to make a comeback,” she said. “The last couple of years have been rough, so we’re seeking out freshman and sophomores who are willing to put time and effort into the paper, to care about it. I don’t want to see all of this year’s hard work go to waste.”
Cunningham’s goals are on par with Richardson’s. She’d like to see a larger, more dedicated staff.
“With The Advance, there are a lot of opportunities not just for students in writing and photography and art, but also in things like accounting and marketing,” she said. “So if we could get more people involved and establish strong leaders that will carry the paper through the next couple of years, it would be better for everyone.”