A FACT LITTLE known amongst University of Ottawa students is that their own beloved campus newspapers are members of a greater organization of student news media called Canadian University Press (CUP). This past week, one of our fellow CUP papers faced a disconcerting proposal from their student union regarding their method of print.
The Xaverian Weekly, the independent student-run publication of St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) in Antigonish, N.S., has experienced declining ad revenue for the past year. As a result, the St. FX student union is in a position where they may have to offer financial support to the paper. Unwilling to allocate more funds to the weekly paper, the union has suggested the paper eliminate its print format in favour of becoming an online-only news source.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and what is a cash-sucker to the St. FX student union is an important physical presence to the staff of the Xaverian Weekly.
Point: Unnecessary expense
A much smaller school than the U of O, St. FX hosts 4,500 full-time students. Still, in a rural community where printing houses are few and far between, the cost of producing enough physical newspapers to distribute to only half of the student body can be in the high hundreds—that’s weekly.
While it is important to have a news source that highlights the student experience and keeps the student body informed about issues that affect them, there are more cost-effective and environmentally friendly options than printing physical papers.
Now that the student union may have to step in to financially support the Xaverian Weekly once again, the novelty of a printed newspaper is wearing thin. An online medium can offer more space for the newspaper to continue its work, without the issue of print costs entering into the equation.
Online, the Xaverian Weekly can continue to expand and evolve, without costing students a dime.
Counterpoint: Pro print
Printing physical newspapers is not about sustaining a throwback novelty for the campus hipsters. It is about the creation of a tangible product and remaining a part of an ongoing tradition of news writing.
While the St. FX student union may not see a difference between online and print writing, it exists and it is considerable. Though some of the benefits of the Internet are its adaptability and accessibility, those are also two of its major pitfalls. As much as a website is capable of presenting the same type of reporting as print media, it is also possible for that reporting to devolve into what the majority of the Internet has become: Misinformed dribble with no one to regulate it.
Moving the Xavierian Weekly online would not only risk the quality of its content as time goes on, but would also force it into a league where it does not belong. A weekly newspaper at a rural university campus should not attempt to compete with print media powerhouses like the Globe and Mail. But when a story breaks and students go online to hear it, where will they turn? Where would you turn, given the plethora of options the Internet affords? Likely not to a student paper.
Changing this newspaper to an exclusively online presence would be detrimental to its identity, content, and readership. If the St. FX student union is interested in having a legitimate news source on its campus, then online only is not the way to go.