By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer
As the journalism industry continues to grow and change, The Baylor Lariat newspaper has decided to transition to an online-based format for the upcoming school year and beyond with around six special print issues each semester.
After Bruce Gietzen, director of student media, Julie Reed, assistant media adviser, and Jamile Yglecias, manager of advertising sales & marketing, researched data about online media before Gietzen presented that information to the Student Media Board. The board made the official decision to go digital.
While the impact of COVID-19 played a role in this decision, Gietzen said it was not the determining factor. Other colleges and universities such as Iowa State, Stephen F. Austin and Loyola-Marymount are also focusing on a digital product.
The University of North Texas is also scaling back on print issues and the OU Daily decreased its number of print issues last year.
In recent years, there has been a physical print copy of The Lariat released each Tuesday and Friday. However, there will now be six each semester.
“We didn’t want to stop print altogether because we think there’s value to students knowing how to do that print design and there’s some people who still like to pick up a paper,” Gietzen said.
During the fall semester there will be special issues with the topics of welcome back, housing, homecoming, election and holiday. During the spring semester there will be another welcome back issue along with health, All-University Sing, spring break, career and graduation issues.
Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, chair of the journalism, new media and public relations department, said that this decision was not made lightly, and it has been something that the department has been considering for around three years.
“We feel like having the newspaper online will not take away from what The Lariat has to offer,” Moody-Ramirez said.
In an email sent to Lariat staff members, Gietzen said two-thirds of print sale revenue during the 2019-2020 school year came from special issues and that he believes this will be a more sustainable business model for the shifting dynamics in journalism.
Gietzen also said that most people prefer to get their daily news online or through mobile apps, and that online media is the direction in which the industry is heading.
“We’re just kind of changing how we deliver our news to match our customers’ needs and also prepare our student staff for jobs after they graduate,” Gietzen said.
Moody-Ramirez emphasized that many students may not even notice the shift as most already read The Lariat online rather than in print. She believes it will be more convenient to share stories from reader to reader on a digital platform and that the digital platform will also help readers interact with the story itself.
“Sometimes they don’t come to campus,” Moody-Ramirez said. “Nowadays, you know, maybe they just come to campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They’re able to read it online and then that’s just as good.”
Houston junior Grace Kosley said she is more likely to read the news through technological means than a physical newspaper in the current day.
“I think it’ll be easier for students to read the news on their computers or phones since they will already be adapted to doing that with their schoolwork,” Kosley said.
Gietzen said that the fundamentals of journalism aren’t going to change for The Lariat staff. The delivery of the news is only shifting to align with the progressing field.
“The Lariat has been published since 1900, and that long award-winning tradition is not going to stop,” Gietzen said. “We’re very mindful of that history and we want that to continue.”