Nearly two years have passed since the UWGB campus newspaper, The Fourth Estate, was taken offline on the very same day it was reintroduced as an online format!
Since then, UWGB has been without a “traditional” campus newspaper. However, Phil Clampitt, Communication Department Chair, said he was recently cleared to hire a new faculty advisor to replace the person who oversaw the failed, online rollout of The Fourth Estate.
Quality Improvement meant pulling the plug
According to Dr. Clampitt, the online version of The Fourth Estate was shuttered immediately after its February 2017 debut because, “quality was lacking.” When asked if there were any remaining students still in the COMM Journalism program who had previously worked on The Fourth Estate in the original print format, Phil said finding anyone would be a “hard task. It stopped running in a print format in 2013.”
Fourth Estate boxes still litter the campus, and it’s been five years since any paper copies filled them. They remain a relic of a time, long-since passed when students could randomly happen upon copies of the campus newspaper, pick one up, and gain information they couldn’t otherwise find.
Dr. Clampitt acknowledged that one of the limitations of an online format is that people must actively seek it out rather than happening upon it the way they could with a print version. He countered with a short story about the actual readership of the print version of The Fourth Estate toward the ends of its printed life. When the people financing The Fourth Estate pointed out that print copies didn’t seem to be moving out of the boxes scattered across campus, some students working for The Fourth Estate took it upon themselves to clear copies out of the boxes and drop them in the dumpster to give the appearance of the paper being read!
Grammar Police Tracking Traffic, too
One advantage of an online Fourth Estate is that it is possible to track traffic to the website and see which stories are being read. This is currently being done with The COMM Voice, which Dr. Clampitt views as a launchpad for a rejuvenated Fourth Estate.
In the past, The Fourth Estate was student run, but it had shifted to a more faculty-guided publication which changed its financing options. Dr. Clampitt expects that once a new faculty advisor is hired, the writing talent cultivated through The COMM Voice will be able to fill the ranks of the new campus online newspaper. No matter what, The Fourth Estate will not return in a print version.
While online news media may be rendering print media obsolete, the need for long-form written news is as great as ever. Television and radio news can only offer superficial overviews of any news story; in-depth coverage needs to be in the written word. (Or, perhaps, in a lengthy, expensive, documentary film production – or in a 60 Minutes-type news show.)
For UWGB, a return of The Fourth Estate in some kind of format in the near future could represent a return to in-depth discussions about issues affecting all students – and the entire campus.
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