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Fifteen Things the Collegian Can Do to Survive

We attended the Collegian’s public board meeting on Thursday night and took some notes that we’d like to share with you. This quote from the meeting kind of sums up the situation: “Our #1 priority is survival. Our #2 is figuring out what new media is going to be and what infrastructure we will need to support it.”

But the Collegian will survive, we’re sure of that. It has enough cash reserves to last it through a few years of losses. However, it will still undoubtedly have to adapt to the changing information economy.

Below are fifteen things the Collegian could do to adapt and become sustainable again:

  1. 2810582762_993bf878091Outsource all editing and page layout to India. The paper could do this perhaps through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk or
  2. Find more candidates for Editor-in-Chief and Business Manager. Right now, the Collegian only has one candidate for Business Manager and two for EIC. What kind of meritocracy is it if there’s minimal competition for the top leadership spots? (This isn’t the first time they haven’t had enough candidates; last year, they had only one candidate for each position.) Part of this may include eliminating the requirement that each of the duumvirate must be in State College for the summer proceeding the year they are in charge.
  3. SpanierWatch 2k9: have a reporter and photographer on Graham at all times. Let’s get some paparazzi in State College. They could cover the football players too.
  4. Continue Begin fundraising efforts. One board member commented that the total fundraising over the last 2 or 3 years was only $50. Even in this recession, the newspaper should be able to raise more than that if it just taps the intense relationship former student-writers/editors/account managers/whatever have with the Collegian.
  5. The Collegian should introduce a braille edition to help it get a better feel for its readership.
  6. Divert any fundraised money to a trust that will pay for the Collegian scholarships (almost $200,000 worth) so that the newspaper no longer has to take that amount out of the yearly operating budget.
  7. Hire the Willard Preacher to be a Collegian columnist.
  8. Tap more than the financial assets of alumni: the Collegian should accept the offer a group of interested alumni made on Thursday night to conduct a full audit of the organization. The two alumni who presented on behalf of the group had flown in from Indiana and drove in from York, PA. They said that the group would assess the institution holistically, and bring in outside experts to offer their advice.
  9. Take a hard look at personnel. There are three major ways the paper can reduce its overhead: direct costs, overhead, and labor. Direct costs are at a pretty fixed rate– the Collegian is unusual as newspapers go because students still read most of their news on dead trees rather than the computer screen. Overhead is relatively lean already; the Collegian’s IT infrastructure is outdated as it is. This means that the cost cutting will most likely have to come from labor. The paper has two types of people working for it: students and employees. Students aren’t compensated with anything but some scholarship money, while employees are adults who get paid salaries for their work. The paper, at the end of the day, is about the students. The Collegian might be able to reduce a large part of its costs if it converts to a student-only organization. That would require it to incentivize the jobs college students wouldn’t normally pursue and having editors take over the candidate program. Could the Collegian set up a work-study program? Or find a fraternity that could make its pledges do the dirty work?
  11. Continue producing high-quality multimedia content. The Collegian pumped out 16 videos during THON this weekend, which is really impressive, and it enabled embedding. Now the only thing left to improve is quality.
  12. Replace the political commentary section with Doonesbury and the comics section with Cathy.
  13. Expand the blogs and market them more effectively. The Collegian has a few good blogs (Do Not Eat This Blog, EIC, and There is No Name on My Ballot) but the majority aren’t consistent enough. Maybe consolidate them into a group blog similar to the one produced by the staff of the Princetonian.nuclear
  14. Add more blinky GIFs. Come on, Geocities is prolly ironically retro by now.
  15. Hire paper boys to stand on the corners shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”

[Photo by Flickr’s opacity.] [This post originally inaccurately stated that there is only one candidate for each of the Collegian’s two top positions this year. There are in fact two for EIC and one for Business Manager. Additionally, the meeting was on Thursday, not Friday, night and the alumni were from York, PA and Indiana, not New York and Indiana. Thanks go to Terry Casey for the heads up.]

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