Students Design Newspaper of the Future

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

To the vexing question of what will ensure the viability of newspapers into the future, journalism students at DePaul University in Chicago have an unorthodox ? make that, radically unorthodox ? answer: Print.

You read that correctly.

“We believe very much that print media is completely necessary for the future of the newspaper,” says Kathryn Pircher. “It’s not a newspaper without print.”

Pircher, and fellow students Daniel Biederman and Gia Teolis, won the $1,000 first prize in the inaugural DePaul Journalism Challenge. Some 18 student teams presented competing visions of the newspaper of the future. The only criteria was that the plan be feasible and realistic with no Minority Report-like holographic editions of USA Today, says adjunct professor Joe Cappo, a newspaper veteran going back to the old Chicago Daily News.

The three finalists offered plenty that was forward-looking, with a la carte sectioning, smart-card single-copy sales, and “virtual doorstop delivery” by wireless devices. Yet the most striking common thread of these future journalists was their deep loyalty to print.

“We want you to get your hands dirty, get ink on yourself, you’re reading it so much,” Tom Kennedy says of his team’s proposed newspaper, The Chicago Scribe. Their paper would reverse the newspaper industry’s Web news model: News from the morning paper would cost users, and become free two days later. The winning team even proposed reviving an evening paper for commuters ?a concept most newspapers think was killed by workplace access to news on the Web.

This was not a group of young old fogies, but students who reflect their peers’ tastes in media. Pircher, for instance, much prefers the commuter/youth tab RedEye to its parent Chicago Tribune, which she describes as “too bulky, too intimidating, really.”

Adjunct professor Cappo offers several explanations for the youngsters’ enthusiasm for print. For one thing, he says, they haven’t yet seen any successful journalism enterprise emerge as a Web-only product. Also, college students read far more than they’re given credit for. “And then, of course,” he adds, “they’re journalism students, and they want to get jobs. They don’t want to see newspapers disappear.”

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