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Why TNH is adapting to a ‘Digital First’ philosophy

The New Hampshire (TNH) Executive Editor Allison Bellucci announced in the editorial published in last Monday’s issue on Nov. 14 that our student-run news organization will be making a big change to emphasize our digital platform for the upcoming 2017-18 academic year. To briefly summarize the plan, TNH will cease to be a biweekly print, instead becoming a weekly 24-page all-color paper published on Thursdays. In place of the second printed issue, we’ll be publishing three times a week on Also, TNH is merging with Main Street Magazine (MSM), the editorial staff of which will run a lifestyle blog to be featured on TNH’s website.
As part of an independent study I’m participating in this fall 2016 semester, I’ve been researching how other news organizations have embraced the digital age. In compiling my research as the semester’s end draws nearer, I’ve found that there are many benefits to a running a digitally focused organization, and that the possibilities for our digital platform are innumerable.
In this article, I’d first like to focus on the benefits, and save the specific strategy details for later. It is important to remember that we are a student-run organization, meaning that not everything that was possible for our larger role model news outlets will be possible for us– at least not right away.
One professional within the news industry I’ve interviewed is David Beard, a former editor of the,, the Associated Press and The Boston Globe. Beard said that “the pressure shouldn’t be so great on the executive editor to have a set-in-stone game plan.” He encouraged us to “create a culture of experimentation at the paper.”
Though I already stated that there are many benefits, there are three I believe to be especially pertinent to TNH, keeping that we are a small student news organization with some limitations in mind. With stacks of our printed papers left unread every week, shifting our focus to a ‘Digital First’ philosophy will help us boost audience accessibility and provide more immediate and updated news coverage. Also, and perhaps most importantly, by creating what Beard calls a “culture of experimentation,” we will be help prepare our fellow student journalists for success in this digital age.
Boosting audience accessibility is a major benefit to going digital, particularly as the distribution of our printed edition is currently limited to the Seacoast area. Right now, in addition to as our central online presence, we also have a Twitter and Instagram, though our social media presence could be made stronger. By turning our main focus to a digital presence, we can reach more people and encourage those who may not have access to the printed publication, such as alumni and parents for example, to actively follow us online. Beard said that establishing and nurturing an extended audience would be vital to ensuring our digital platform’s success, adding that should be “first of mind” for the UNH community, and in order to do so we will have to try to “aggressively reach people.”
“I feel like you need to create some sort of omnipresence of the news organization,” Beard said.
We would like to make a source of original news reporting and other unique written content, such as the lifestyle blog mentioned earlier. In addition to making sure that every printed story is also published online, placing this emphasis on our digital platform will allow us to generate even more news stories, and update those stories with any new developments. Breaking news and regular news stories can be featured as part of our platform in a way they never have been before with new additions to the website only being added on a bi-weekly basis. With this change, more immediate publication can follow the coverage of events and news happenings. We want our readership to be able to learn about current happenings from us first.
Finally, what I believe to be one of the most important things about TNH is that it is a learning publication. While we strive to be as professional to the best of our ability, a main function of our existence is in providing an outlet for student journalists to practice and hone their skills. As a senior English/journalism student, I can personally say that thus far my formal UNH journalism classes have not adequately prepared me for entering an ever more digitally focused industry. It hasn’t been until now, during my senior fall semester, that I’ve learned how to edit video clips, use Audacity to edit audio files, practiced live-tweeting events or compiled photo essays. The importance of Twitter had never been stressed to me. I looked at Instagram as a personal social application, not a tool for alternative news reporting. I didn’t even know how to add a hyperlink to an online story.
Journalists must be versatile and understand how to make their own personal online presences news outlets in themselves. Many employers within the news industry look for following on social media as a job requirement. Pulitzer Prize winner and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor David Shribman even said during a visit to Tom Haines’ digital reporting class earlier this semester that he recently hired someone based mainly on the reason that the prospect had over 50,000 followers on Twitter.
Multimedia skills have become crucial to acquire for the journalists of today and the future. Most of our student journalists and editors already maintain professional social media platforms to engage in reporting activities like live-tweeting and photo journalism. By shifting TNH’s focus to a ‘Digital First’ philosophy, we can not only expand TNH’s audience accessibility and increase original news coverage; we’ll be able to better support our student writers in actively practicing and learning new digital skills that aren’t being immediately introduced in lower-level journalism classes. The news organizations of the world are adapting to the digital age, and for the benefit of our readers and student writers, we are also choosing to readjust, thus making our organization more applicable to this changing news atmosphere.

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