Sunday, August 23, 2009

Should Campus Paper Go On-Line?

By Nica Margarette Tomines, Roehl Niño BautistaPhilippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Campus papers, ranging from colored broadsheets to monochrome tabloids, are a distinguishing mark of an educational institution. The medium is supported by the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, which states that the State should undertake various programs and projects aimed at improving the journalistic skills of students and promoting responsible and free journalism.

The role of campus newspapers as the voice of the students still holds value to this day. “Our role [as a student publication] is to form and inform the community on various issues in the community, as well as balance what the student public needs and wants to know,” Anna Bueno, news editor of Guidon, the official student publication of Ateneo de Manila University, says.

“Campus newspapers should always bear in mind that their primary constituency is the university. Hence, they should focus on covering news and issues relevant to such constituency,” says Atty. JP Colet, former editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian.


However, many students do not feel emotionally connected to their campus newspapers, according to a study by the Department of Communication Research in UP Diliman on campus newspapers. Students only read their campus papers whenever it is convenient for them to do so.

“I am not that interested in reading our campus papers kasi parang hindi naman siya nakakaapekto sa buhay ko [because the campus paper doesn’t seem to affect my life],” Shaddai Solidum, a fifth year UP Music major, says.

The study also noted that there seems to be a problem with the interaction and feedback aspect of the campus papers. Students are not motivated to comment on the articles using the existing mechanisms for feedback. The study suggests the problem can lie in the content of the campus papers in general.

The same study found out that students preferred reading the feature and entertainment sections of the paper more than the other sections.

“I would say that is natural. However, that does not mean that other sections do not have their purpose in a newspaper. It does not mean students don’t read news,” says Bueno.
Anthony Valenzuela, editor in chief of Adamson Chronicles, thinks that reality should serve as a challenge to “introduce, write and execute the feature and entertainment sections in such a way that it would bring student readers to relate with the other sections significantly.”

Web versions

Today’s student population is tech-savvy. They are more familiar with reading from a computer monitor than a printed page. In fact, based on the same study, 6 out of 10 students spend their time online, while only 1 out of 10 spend their time reading newspapers.

With students as the primary audience of campus papers, editors have to find ways to reach the majority who are “always online.” As mainstream newspapers turn to the power of the Web, the on-campus counterparts should follow suit.

Some campus papers already have their own websites, like the Lasallian of the De La Salle University and the Varsitarian of the University of Santo Tomas.

“Online campus papers na lang para di sayang sa papel. Students are bound to go online, anyway, so it is more convenient,” Micha Reyes, a senior says.

Online versions or even a website of the campus newspapers, can be a great venue to reach out to more students, while also saving on paper.

“The Collegian has a circulation of 15,000, and 1,000 goes to other UP campus. The 15,000 is not enough to reach the 20,000-plus UP Diliman students,” says Larissa Mae Suarez, editor in chief of Philippine Collegian, the official publication of University of the Philippines Diliman.


However, there are those who still believe the old-school print version of campus newspapers is much better than any digital counterpart, for reasons of accessibility and readability of format.
“I would still prefer the old and handy paper style over an online version, because one doesn’t need to have a computer to access [the campus paper],” says senior Iñigo Rudio.

Kim Carbon, a sophomore, says, she also prefers the print format of campus papers, because “hindi siya [campus paper] masakit sa mata pag binabasa.”

And what about the capability of campus paper editors to maintain an online version?

“I think it would be a challenge for student newspapers to actually maintain an online site that updates itself, let’s say, everyday. Since we are student journalists—with papers and oral exams and other activities to do—I think that would take more effort and more time from us,” says Bueno.

People behind campus newspapers do their best to be of service to their school, and will continue to go through stressful days and sleepless nights to bring the most relevant news to students.
Whether they’re packed in stacks of paper or posted on the Web, articles that matter cry to be read, and it’s up to us to heed the call.


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