The ongoing challenge of sustaining print news is not exclusive to the professional world. This problem also hits home for student news organizations, including that of my alma mater, The College of New Jersey.
Fortunately for the College, its student news publication, The Signal, is once again producing physical newspapers after only delivering news online for the last three years as a result of COVID shutting down the print publication. And fortunately for me, I was invited back to the campus to celebrate this accomplishment. I joined other alumni and current students of the College’s Journalism and Professional Writing program as part of its Signal Journalism Conference on Sept. 9.
The conference consisted of a panel of five former editors of The Signal (including me) who all now work in a variety of fields – ranging from news to podcasting, public relations, advertising and marketing. Our collective minds meshed to present unique ideas to help current students sustain and expand The Signal, while professionally developing themselves.
Going into the conference, I was disappointed to learn from Professor Emilie Lounsberry that student awareness of The Signal’s existence has plummeted during the three years it was online only, according to a study done by a PR class at the College. After all, The Signal exists for the students.
But, as I was explaining to the students at the conference, the student news organization’s print rebirth presents many excellent opportunities to change that.
For instance, now you have a tangible item to show to the current student body in addition to encouraging them to visit The Signal’s website. As a writer, staff member or editor of The Signal, you have the obligation of carrying copies of the paper with you around the campus to pique your peers’ curiosity. Give a copy to a friend. Make them ask, “What is that you’re reading?”
On the digital front, any person who is affiliated with The Signal should share links to articles on their personal social media pages. I was pleased to see that The Signal is still going strong on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and it now has a TikTok presence. But what helps those pages is when the content is amplified from personal sharing. And who better to do that than the College’s journalism students and The Signal’s own staff and writers?
I’m optimistic that some of my tips, in addition to my co-panelists’ ideas and The Signal’s active recruiting of writers and business managers, will help the student organization flourish – even though its editors are already doing a darn good job.
If you’re reading this, help The Signal out by visiting www.tcnjsignalnews.com. It features some great journalism.