Brigham Young University’s Communications Department announced today in a meeting with students and faculty that The Daily Universe will move to a “digital first” news format beginning no later than April 2012.
Journalism students were invited to the 11 a.m. meeting via email about 24 hours in advance and met in a small classroom in the communications building. The students were addressed by four department faculty and were given the news and had a chance to ask questions before the official announcement. At about 11:30 a.m. the Communications Department sent the news release via email to current students and alumni.
With the new model, The Daily Universe will only print one day a week. This new format will include text, image, audio, video, mobile and tablet formats and will include a weekly publication. The current publication prints five days a week.
“We believe the digital first platform will enable us to train better journalists, better meet the needs of our readers, and give them news in the way they want to receive it,” Susan Walton, Associate Communication Department Chair, said.
Over the next few months, the eight Daily Universe full-time staff positions will be dissolved as The Daily Universe converts to the new version. They will have an opportunity to apply for the new digital staff. The eight current staff members losing jobs will receive severance and medical benefits for a period of time. The amount of time was not given in the meeting.
The department is working on job descriptions for the new staff positions. Anyone qualified to work at Brigham Young University will be able to apply for the new positions.
The Daily Universe’s student employee editors will continue their jobs until April.
The decision was based after discussions about the evolving news industry, the curriculum, the financial state of the paper and decreased advertising.
Significant declines in advertising revenue played a large role in prompting the decision to become a weekly paper. Ed Adams, head of the Daily Universe task force said the publication lost one-third of advertising revenue over the last five years.
“That beats the national trend,” Adams said. “The national trend shows 42 percent.”
Quint Randle, associate professor, said the financial state of the paper did not immediately prompt the change.
“It was not strictly a financial decision,” Randle said. “This was a curriculum-based decision.”
BYU Eleven News will continue as daily broadcast with no changes.
The Daily Universe has a circulation of 18,500 but Adams said readership could be lower than that.
“We’ve seen an increase in recycle-ables over time,” he said. “We knew we’d have to make a circulation adjustment sooner or later because of advertising.”
The Daily Universe broke the news on Twitter and online during the meeting. The announcement started a frenzy of tweets about The Daily Universe both negative and positive.
Greg Wrubell, one of the voices of KSL radio, tweeted about his experience with The Daily Universe.
“Back in 1984, my freshman year at BYU, I’d open The Daily Universe every Monday morning and track the Cougars’ ascent in the CFB polls,” he said in a tweet. “Living on campus without a TV or computer (one guy on the floor had a Macintosh!), The Daily Universe was my information lifeline.”
The name of the publication may be under discussion with the new changes.
“‘The Universe’ is our brand and it’s our heritage,” Walton said. “It’s not just part of our past, it’s part of our future.”
The journalism faculty remains optimistic about the future of the program.
“This is very, very exciting,” Randle said. “Now…we can focus on other types of long-form journalism and communicate through different channels.”
Walton said students will be able to benefit from this change.
“I think there will be some very interesting opportunities that come from this,” Walton said.
The news release from the Communications Department said the decision will help students prepare for entering the “real world”.
“This will enable us to better meet our journalism program learning outcomes and prepare our students for the realities of the workplace in a changing communications arena by training them in essential digital skills,” the news release said.