This year's co-editors: Kim Nelson, left, and Grace Bodey, right.
Starting this fall, The Tack, Buena Vista University’s student-operated newspaper, will be fully online at bvtack.com.
The transition began the last school year by reducing the frequency of the print issues from weekly to every other week along with a concurrent online edition which also allowed the staff to provide timely online updates of important breaking campus news. The first new weekly edition, which will continue to provide news updates, went online Sept. 5.
Grace Bodey, a junior digital media and graphic design/visual communication double major from Belvidere, Ill., and co-editor of The Tack, says the change reflects what has been happening in the media profession and at other colleges and universities in recent years.
“A current trend in college media is the transition from printed newspapers to online issues. It began with larger schools, but now, universities of all sizes are choosing to forgo a printed copy because of the positive impacts this decision has on the environment, the economy, and their readership,” she says. “Even if a paper is a daily one, breaking news still waits to get printed. On the Internet, we can crack a story at midnight instead of waiting until 8 a.m. the next morning; we can lay claim to more stories when we have access to 24/7 publishing power.”
The Tack may still publish one or two print issues for special occasions, such as Homecoming or Buenafication Day, says Bodey. Those will be determined by The Tack editorial staff.
Bodey says the search for a more effective The Tack experience began several years ago. “Co-editor Kim Nelson and I decided early on that this academic year would involve switching the publication to a fully functional online entity,” she says.
Readers will continue to have free access to The Tack online. Readers can also subscribe at no charge, which will place them on e-mail alert list to be notified when there is breaking news in The Tack.
The Tack plans no changes at this time to its Web site, which was developed a couple of years ago by computer science students of Jason Shepherd, assistant professor of computer science.
“We do plan on changing the Web site’s design once the transition has been completed, but our current site works well for us and has great features for our BV audience.” says Nelson, a senior English major from Garnavillo “Bvtack.com is user-friendly and will allow visitors to search certain sections, media, specific stories, and writers. You can even turn the Web page into an app on an iPad. This allows studentsaccess to BVU campus news at just the tap of a finger. It’s a really great way to incorporate the technology the university has given us into our media organization.”
The Tack, which was started over 100 years ago (named The Tack in 1895), has served as a training laboratory for budding journalists and students from other majors who want to contribute to the student voice. Depending on the year, The Tack staff typically numbers from 20 to 25 students, including about 25 to 30 percent who are digital media majors or minors.
The growth of the Internet and popularity of social media such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the landscape of the media profession, requiring journalists to have multiple skill sets to tell their stories in print, video and other digital formats. That shift in the profession also led BVU to change its former “media studies” program last year to what is now called “digital media” with a curriculum that prepares students for careers in 21st century multimedia journalism.
Over the years, subscription and advertising revenue have helped offset some of the expenses of producing The Tack, but the cost has been largely subsidized by the university. “We are grateful that BVU sees the educational value in the learning that happens at the student newspaper, and the university’s support in underwriting costs,” says Jamii Claiborne, Class of 1996, associate professor of digital media and The Tack advisor.
Claiborne says eliminating print editions will save on printing costs, but there will likely be other costs associated with running an online operation. “We're in a transition stage and will know more a year from now about those costs and how they compare to printing,” she notes. “We also will have a better idea of the impact on advertising revenue.”