A high school student newspaper near us has gone online. The Palmyra (Pa.) Area High School's Cougar Chronicle is now online only in a WordPress blogging format. "No big deal," you say? We think otherwise. "Teenagers are not getting their information from print media anymore. They Google it. They want their information now," says the Cougar's faculty adviser.
Think what this means for newspapers and, by extension, PR people of the future. Kids are starting to grow up without newsprint in their hands. And they don't miss it. They want their school news and, by extension, their other news now, and they're getting it online. Paul Baker, the editor of the Palmyra area's grown-up newspaper, The Lebanon Daily News, told a community meeting recently that questions of future formats are very much on his mind.
Going online will save $5,000 to $6,000 a year in Cougar printing bills. But more to the point, the school's students will have news and photos of school sports available almost immediately, not a month from now, as was the case when the Cougar appeared on newsprint.
"Digital transformation is affecting education and the media," Beci Pope, the Cougar's adviser and Palmyra High's journalism teacher says. "It becomes very authentic for students. Students will no longer be just writing an essay and turning it in to their teacher for grading. They're actually going out and gathering news." The move online will also increase the Cougar's readership, she added.
When the Cougar's kids and, by extension, high school students everywhere, graduate, do you think they're going to be satisfied with waiting for a carrier to deliver a printed paper, or with having to head to a newsstand to buy one? Similar questions about newspaper reading habits have, of course, been raised in more general terms for some time now. And papers have been reacting in various, fairly tentative, ways. But with the Palmyra High Cougar going online, such matters have suddenly become a lot more pertinent hereabouts.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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