Center for Student Media considers big changes
The new Center for Student Media held the first meeting of the Student Media Advisory Committee at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library.
Replacing the Student Publications Committee, SMAC brings together The Daily Cougar Editor-in-Chief Channler K. Hill, Student Video Network President Sophia Pereira and Coog Radio Station Director Samantha Wong, along with representatives from all three organizations, the Student Government Association and local professional committees.
At the meeting, each student leader presented the improvements made by their organziation since the beginning of the school year. SVN has given out more promotional material and is producing new shows and reviews, while Coog Radio boasts a re-launched website, new projects and more giveaways such as free tickets to local concerts.
The Daily Cougar also launched a new website and front page design and is marketing itself more with a new slogan, promotional tables and an open house, and all three organizations are extending collaboration efforts.
Several suggestions were made for the improvement of the Center, largely focused on The Daily Cougar. One of the major propositions was a suggestion made by Center for Student Media Director Matt Dulin to transition The Daily Cougar to a more online-based publication, with only one or two print issues a week.
“We surveyed students and their reading habits, we surveyed editors in Texas and what they’re looking for in journalism graduates, we surveyed hiring editors at newspaper and radio stations,” Dulin said. “We’re also noticing a lot of college publications making drastic transformations to adapt.
“There is a sense out there of, ‘We don’t know what to do, so we’ve got to try something,’ and when you start seeing a number of these storied institutions doing that, you wonder, ‘Do they know something we don’t know?'”
Members’ reaction to the proposal was mixed, and many suggested that more research may be needed.
“Hypothetically, if we were to move forward and limit the amounts of days that The Daily Cougar prints … (I would want to) go further to see if people would be as receptive … and to go internal to see if that would be well-received within the staff in terms of content — if it’d be doable, if it’d be better,” Wong said.
Funding remained a concern. Though online advertising and local advertising has increased, national advertising fell by 66 percent, creating a fund deficit for the 2013-14 school year.
“We’re hurting proportionally with everyone else. Our drop was about two-thirds. We talked to The Daily Texan; it’s also going to be about a two-third drop (for them) … but there’s hope. There’s always a better day ahead,” Dulin said.
Dulin and the rest of the Center have been interviewing other student newspapers and professional newspaper editors across the country in order to understand how to create a better paper for the student readers and for the aspiring journalists who work on it.
“Ninety-four percent of these editors who have the ability to hire college graduates — they valued just basic research skills,” Dulin said.
Working at a daily newspaper, Dulin pointed out, was not high on the list of valued skills.
Whatever the final decision regarding The Daily Cougar’s print edition will be, the importance of social media and active websites for the entire Center is not to be underestimated. All the organizations boast more “likes” on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and the Center is pushing for an app that will deliver the latest videos, music and news straight to the phones of UH students.
SMAC will now meet once a month, and more big changes are coming across the board.