Keeping the Paper in Newspaper

The Daily Texan, the University of Texas’ 113-year-old student newspaper, recently had a close brush with death of sorts.  On March 1, faced with declining advertising revenues, the paper’s managing board, Texas Student Media, voted on whether to reduce the paper’s print schedule.  Summer publication has already been reduced to once weekly.  The proposal had produced substantial outcry from students, alumni, and community members, who felt the print publication should not be cut.  The eventual decision was to leave the print schedule as-is – for now – and instead to cut staff salaries, dip into financial reserves, and enhance the publication’s online presence.  Printing and distribution has already been outsourced to the nearby Austin American-Statesman.

Clearly the Daily Texan’s print woes are not fully resolved.  For a conservator, and for those invested in the physical manifestations of print culture, an especially interesting quote appeared in the Texan’s editorial “Keep the Daily Texan Daily” on February 19, 2013:

Other college newspapers that have cut their circulation, such as the Red and Black at the University of Georgia, have not found themselves liberated by shedding their daily print product and transforming into a weekly newspaper. According to the Red and Black Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Fouriezos, print pick-up rates have declined dramatically and web traffic has suffered, too. ‘Take the paper out of their minds every day, and it’s no longer a part of their daily habit,’ he said, adding, ‘People can ignore an online product just as much as they can ignore a print product. Online readership is not a given.’

–The Daily Texan, 2/19/13

Just how much is paper part of the newspaper’s identity?  How do the physical and digital versions of media drive interest in one another?  How can libraries and archives best preserve the record of this turbulent transition?  We welcome your comments.

Meanwhile, for those of you wondering about the recent Travis Letter exhibit, we’ll have information and commentary as we process environmental data collected at the exhibit site.  Stay tuned in coming days and weeks.