The dean of the LSU journalism school said Saturday that despite reports The Reveille could soon curtail publication of the student newspaper, he has no timeline for when, or if, to reduce the print edition in favor of a greater online presence.
Jerry Ceppos, dean of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication, said after a freewheeling forum that he envisions the Student Media Board gathering information and making recommendations over which he would retain the right of veto.
Not unlike the professional world, LSU’s historic student newspaper is facing declining readership and revenues, prompting school officials to consider how much resources should be spent on the print edition and how much of a presence the digital edition should have.
“These are the things that have molded my life,” Ceppos said, recalling that the student newspaper he edited at the University of Maryland recently rolled back its publication to one day a week and increased its online presence. His professional career at Knight Ridder was marked by such struggles.
The Reveille prints 10,000 newspapers, five days a week, distributing them for free around the LSU campus. About 2,500 copies — a fairly high percentage in the newspaper world — are returned unread. Printing costs about $108,000 a year.
Andrea Gallo, a former Reveille editor who now works for The Advocate, noted that few actual numbers were available. But she said she’s been studying the books, and one thing she knows for sure is that the widespread belief that The Reveille is “bleeding money” is over-exaggerated. She said it often gets overlooked that the newspaper is student media’s top money maker and covers most of the administrative expenses for all student media.
Because The Reveille has trained so many journalists, particularly in Louisiana, reports that the school’s administration was considering reducing its print publication schedule have attracted considerable attention. About 45 students, educators, and alumni attended the forum at the Manship School, billed as “a conversation,” and many others listened in on a broadcast.
Talk occasionally became heated.
“The tenor of this conversation is the problem we are having,” said Scott Sternberg, a New Orleans lawyer who has represented The Advocate. “We don’t have facts. … The feeling I have is there’s an online versus print thing going one here.”
Deanna Narveson, an LSU student from Houston who runs the online site for student media, disagreed, saying that once there was friction, but it mostly came from not knowing how to go about merging the print edition with the online presence. “This is not print versus digital. This is print and digital together trying to figure out how to make this work,” Narveson said.
The move came to light when Steve Buttry, LSU’s Director of Student Media, wrote a memo outlining the possibilities and asking for input. In an interview last month with The Advocate, the nationally recognized digital innovator suggested that a shift to a weekly or twice-weekly publication might make more financial sense and could give students a chance to spend more time learning and navigating a media structure that’s shifting toward online.
He was unable to attend Saturday’s conversation because he had to undergo emergency surgery, but Buttry sent a note that was read by moderator Martin Johnson, a member of the board and professor of political communication at the school.
“I will admit that I could have, should have handled some things better,” Buttry said, adding that no decision has been made to reducing The Reveille’s publication schedule.
But the publication can’t continue to sustain the losses and that new sources of revenues have to be found, he wrote.
The Student Media Board, which will be making recommendations to Ceppos on the Reveille’s future, is an independent body of 12 members made up of LSU administration, students, faculty and professionals.
They choose the student leaders of The Reveille, Tiger TV and the other media learning outlets on campus. This reporter’s wife sits on the Student Media Board, as do The Advocate’s editors for the editorial page and website. Additionally, the editor and co-managing editor of The Reveille are also both employed by The Advocate.