Starting spring term, The Daily Universe will evolve into a mainly digital presence with a weekly print edition, ushering in a new era for the BYU campus newspaper.
Every Tuesday morning, a weekly edition of The Universe will filter across campus with new features, while preserving the classics like Sudoku, letters to the editor and police beat. Digitally, reporters will work more rigorously with a 24/7 news cycle to reach broader audiences through Facebook, Twitter, Google + and daily push emails.
Joel Campbell, associate professor of communications, said the weekly edition will tentatively include three sections: The Citizen, The Athlete and The Student. Each will cover different areas, from international news to sports to campus activities. Campbell said reporters will still practice traditional reporting but with added multimedia elements to increase their opportunities in the communications field. The decision to transition was made by the Department of Communications and has created bittersweet reactions among students, faculty and alumni.
“We are not abandoning journalism,” Campbell said. “We still need to be a brand of verification, checking facts and having good information to remain valuable and relevant to our audiences … We pay honor and homage to the faculty and journalism program of the Daily Universe in the past. We couldn’t be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for those people.”
Ed Carter, an associate professor of communications and former editor-in-chief of The Daily Universe, said he would love to see the daily paper continue but agrees with the decision to change. Carter said The Daily Universe’s publications have bounced between weekly to daily printings in the last 50 years. He said since the industry is changing and advertising revenue has decreased, this is a necessary step forward.
“I think there’s good rationale for needing to adapt to technology and face the reality that finances are not what they used to be for print advertising,” Carter said. “I think those are the two major driving forces behind the transition.”
In January, the Department of Communications announced changes in The Daily Universe staff, including new positions for student leadership and less full-time staff.
Lee Davidson, a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune and former editor of The Daily Universe, said his first semester in the newsroom was the first time computers were used there in 1977. Davidson has worked steadily in journalism since his paper route at 10 years old and regrets the technological changes impacting the industry and consequently, BYU.
“I think it’s a shame for students at the university and journalism students,” Davidson said. “Thirty years ago, everyone read The Daily Universe; it was a unifying factor for the university. Everyone picked it up because that’s how you kept up with national and state news.”
The Daily Universe no longer holds the same essential role as it once did, said Brad Rawlins, chair of the Department of Communications. Rawlins said other universities are also making changes to reflect the increase in digital access to communications. Now, The Daily Universe needs to make that digital connection with their audience.
“We are moving to a medium that our audience is already comfortable with,” Rawlins said. “You used to see students standing in the Cougareat reading the newspaper, but now they are on mobile devices … We hope to create content that generates interest our audience will migrate toward.”
Campbell said the shift mirrors the need to provide the BYU community with information on events, trends and other activities from a primarily digital presence. He said the paper will completely transition by fall semester with shorter stories and breaking news online, while the weekly edition will showcase the best graphics, photos and writing for the BYU community to enjoy.
“We have a brand that is part of the community and we aren’t going to abandon that,” Campbell said. “We hope to increase that brand through the digital vehicle to become part of the digital life of our campus community.”