It is sometimes difficult to get beer-guzzling, party-hopping college kids to care about what’s going on in the world. It can be even more challenging to get them to pay attention to what’s happening on their own campuses. But in an effort to improve the way students get their news, administrators in the communications department at Marist College are hoping a new converged media platform will do the trick.
The Marist Media Hub, a one-stop shop for all Marist news and commentary, launched on Oct. 7, just weeks after the school’s newspaper, The Circle, announced it would ditch its print edition for an exclusively online format. The newspaper, which has struggled to reach a wide audience and has been criticized by some students for printing too many unwanted copies, hopes the new media initiative will give the publication a much-needed boost in student interest and exposure.
“We’re hoping that the website will contribute to the success of the paper,” said Amber Case, the editor-in-chief of The Circle. “We can reach more people, which is always a positive thing. We are trying to market it to appeal to more students than those in the communication major, but it will take time to get the word out.”
Although The Circle will play a central role in providing content for the Hub, other campus groups will also have a chance to regularly publish material, including Marist College Television, the Public Relations Student Society of America, Fox Photography, WMAR radio, the Literary Arts Society and the Society of Professional Journalists. Each organization has its own section on the site where its content can be easily searched and organized.
“We are hoping to establish relationships with other media clubs on campus to collaborate and share content with each other,” Case said. “The goal of [the Hub] is to gain exposure for all the clubs, not just The Circle, so I think it is important for us to work together.”
Dr. Ryan Rogers, an assistant professor in the communications department charged with leading the effort to create a converged media platform, echoed the importance of collaboration.
“One of the problems that The Circle faces is a skeleton crew of a staff,” he said. “It’s usually a small group of people doing a lot of the work. One of the ways to fix that is to work with MCTV to pull resources and start to combine content.”
As the faculty adviser for the paper, Rogers said he worked with Case to brainstorm ideas to create a stronger media presence at Marist. He then approached Dr. Carolyn Lepre, the interim dean of the School of Communication and the Arts, and began spit-balling ideas. Rogers said that with Lepre’s support, and additional funding that she was able to secure, they settled on the idea of a website that would unite all of the media groups at Marist.
Through the funding, Rogers and Lepre hired a web designer to build a site that they hoped would be both sophisticated and visually appealing.
“I think that if we have a professional looking site with regularly updated content, then it creates a culture of caring about this stuff and consuming this content. Students will want to be a part of it,” Rogers said.
But that is the long-term goal. Creating that type of culture where students seek out and engage in college news published by their peers can be difficult to achieve, especially over night. According to Meredith Taylor, the executive director of the College Media Association, this hurdle is widespread. She says colleges have to do more than just a website makeover to get students interested.
“Marist is not unique in its struggles. It’s a challenge for most. Continue to try to make the news relevant to your readers. Find the angle that is relatable. That way the reader will be able to use it. It’s also important to embrace new media and find people where they are,” she said.
Taylor also says that it often helps to “figure out what’s happening at other schools across the country and see if you can apply it to your own publication.”
To foster inter-collegiate cooperation and learning, CMA hosts an annual convention featuring college journalists, academics and advisers from around the country to discuss best practices in college media. The conventions also help student journalists make connections and learn about how to improve their own college’s media. This year’s conference will be held later this month in Austin, Texas.
Despite the various resources and advising groups made available to students, colleges like Marist are still struggling to find what works. Still, Taylor says it is important to keep moving forward.
“College media is invaluable,” Taylor said. “It’s a great opportunity for the students involved and for the larger community to keep them informed about what’s happening on campus and in the greater world, but it’s a lot of trial and error. There’s no one size fits all.”