This upcoming school year, The Chronicle will print four issues a week, instead of five, as part of its digital-first model.
The decision came after months of deliberation between Chronicle staff members and the board of directors of the Duke Student Publishing Company. The Chronicle incorporated DSPC in 1993 when it broke ties with the University to become a financially and editorially independent, student-run newspaper. As such, the 13-member Board, comprised mainly of Chronicle alumni, is responsible for setting broad policies for the organization.
The Board voted Saturday in favor of reducing The Chronicle’s print publication in order to focus on developing a stronger digital platform after gaining input from staff members throughout the year.
“We’re still a daily production,” said junior Danielle Muoio, editor-in-chief of The Chronicle. “Going forward, we’re just continuing to reach our goal of getting stories to our readers in the most efficient way… we’re really focusing on our online presence because it’s the best way to get information to the most people. It doesn’t mean stopping the thoughtful effort we put into print.”
Board members noted that the change will free up the staff’s resources and time, allowing for a greater focus on the paper’s content, rather than on its layout and other intricacies associated with daily print production. By shifting the paper’s emphasis to its online presence, staffers will be better equipped to provide around-the-clock news to the Duke community.
“People aren’t waiting for the next day to get the news,” said David Graham, Trinity ’09 and vice-chair of the board. “It’s not enough for The Chronicle to wait 24 hours and get those stories up later on, we have to be publishing things when they happen.”
Muoio added that the change will allow for the paper’s print publication to become more engaging and relevant, presenting a higher concentration of analytical pieces and feature stories.
“We want to revise what goes into our print edition,” she said. “We’ll be packaging stories in a visual, captivating way to fit the reader experience.”
Board members said that although finances were considered in the decision, they were not the driving force. The Chronicle has not been entirely immune to the financial issues that have affected the print media industry, but the paper has managed to maintain significant reserve funds, said Chair of the Board Elizabeth Morgan, Trinity ’90.
Although the paper could continue to afford a daily print schedule on that money alone, it was ultimately decided that cutting a day of print would lead to a stronger publication that could better serve its readers, said board member Karen Blumenthal, Trinity ’81.
“The process was about taking the best next step for The Chronicle, regardless of funds—it’s not about cutting, but investing for the future,” said Chrissy Beck, general manager of The Chronicle.
Board members described the decision as a move to innovate and lead the paper into the digital age by choice, as opposed to eventually being forced to react to unwanted financial pressure.
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“We’re doing something smart before our hand was forced,” Graham said. “We’re moving forward with what we were hearing from staff… this is something that they wanted to do. The opinion was that it was something we needed to do to move to a better digital format faster.”
The perspectives of the student staff and recent Chronicle alumni were one of the main factors behind the decision, Morgan said.
The Chronicle is not alone in its decision to de-emphasize its print presence in favor of the digital product—Syracuse University’s The Daily Orange and Berkeley’s The Daily Californian have made similar moves in recent years. Other independent college papers have gone to printing once or twice a week, and others are entirely on the web.
“The college paper is definitely print-and-digital or all-digital now,” said Rick Edmonds, researcher and writer for non-profit journalism school Poynter Institute. “It’s targeted to an audience that’s by definition pretty young and on digital platforms.”
Beck noted that the perspective of advertisers had also been considered, saying that the switch would not significantly affect advertiser stability. The paper will continue to print 12,000 copies each day it is published, the same figure as before, she said.
“It’s something that’s going to be very positive for The Chronicle,” Morgan said. “It isn’t about printing four or five days a week, it’s really about a robust digital-first strategy that meets the needs of readers.”