Are college newspapers obsolete?

Are student newspapers obsolete? On Confessions of a Community College Dean, the blogger wonders whether a student-written print newspaper that comes out twice a semester is worth maintaining.

I’ll admit some affection for any project that gets students writing readable non-fiction. The ability to assemble a coherent narrative out of a swirl of rapidly-changing facts is useful in all kinds of contexts, certainly including business. But it’s not clear to me why that needs to happen in the context of a newspaper.

I worked for my college newspaper for four years and used that experience to get a low-paying job, which led to another low-paying job, which led to a very good job at the San Jose Mercury News. The Merc has cut its reporting, editing and photo staff by about 60 percent. The editorial pages had 11  employees when I left in early 2001. It’s down to three.

I’d advise the journalism instructors to put the paper online with daily updates. Include video reports. Students will learn to gather facts and write clearly in the modern context.  In addition, make sure they know the average starting and median pay for print, online and broadcast journalists.

About Joanne


  1. Twice a semester? My high school paper published monthly and my college paper did weekly. Twice a semester sounds like the ‘literary paper’ nobody read.

  2. Bill Leonard says:

    Twice a semester is a joke.

    I was editor of my high school paper, which was published about three times per month. (It no longer exists; neither does the yearbook; however, there are a lot of courses for pregnant teenage mothers. Frankly, I miss the days when there was a stigma about unwed motherhood.)

    I majored in journalism, reporting and editing emphasis, at San jose State University in the days when the student paper was a daily, five days per week. I was class of 1965. My career in newspapering lasted a total 18 years. I eventually gravitated to public relations because the money was so much better.

    Sad to say, I would not encourage any kid to major in journalism these days. There are no jobs in print journalism that will support most any young couples, and the jobs in daily journalism (newspapers) are vanishing. I don’t think aspiring broadcast journalists will fare much better. Those on national TV and in major markets make very serious money. Those in small “markets” (as b’cast journalism defines itself; consider for yourselves what “market” really means for serious journalism) often make less than their young counterparts working for country weeklies.

    What does this portend for the edification of the nation? That we depend on blogs of varying degrees of quality and authenticity, and for government pronouncenments — from well-paid, well-equipped government entities — for our news?

    As an old news hand, I worry about the future.


  3. My university’s paper publishes daily and has a dynamic website. Anything that publishes twice a semester isn’t a newspaper.