By Mary Kate Brogan
Buena Vista University’s representatives from The Tack made a single mistake during their otherwise flawless presentation on Saturday: they called their news organization a “newspaper.” For most students at ACP/CMA, this wouldn’t be a gaffe, and two years ago, it wouldn’t have been a problem for BVU’s students. But in August 2012, they made the switch from print to full digital. Their talk, Breaking Out and Breaking It Down: A Year in the Life of a Multimedia News Organization’s Transition, was an eye-opening account of the challenges and ultimately far greater benefits of having an online 24/7 news organization.
The student speakers, Grace Bodey, Shauna McKnight and Aaron Burns, cited cost, consumption, innovation and quality vs. quantity as reasons for making the full switch. Going paperless cut costs for the paper, students’ media appetites were becoming more instant in nature, the university as a whole had a strong technological focus and online news allowed for long or short stories, depending on how much space the story warranted.
All of these reasons are strong points in favor of making the switch. Of course, these are not without challenges of staff changes (which included the elimination of the social media editor), training staff, fairly aggressively rebranding the product, working towards convergence with other student media and increasing interaction with the audience.
Overall, the presentation helped me consider the reasons making the switch to full digital might be helpful for an organization. Instead of wading into the sea of online news, BVU dove in head first and learned to swim fantastically. Certainly, many opposed the switch at first, but in the end, it has helped The Tack at BVU win awards for becoming a strong online news organization, one of the strongest in the nation.