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FROM READERS: Why The Maneater became a weekly newspaper

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:57 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ted Noelker is a junior studying journalism at MU. He is the editor-in-chief of The Maneater, the university's student newspaper.

This year, The Maneater cut publication from twice a week to once a week. Noelker explains the reasoning behind the decision.

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On Wednesday, Aug. 21, The Maneater published its first issue of the 2013-14 academic year. The first issue of each year is always significant to us, but this year’s held a particularly special place in our history. The 80th volume of our paper was marked by a major redesign and repurposing of its pages.

As expected, the change was met with mixed reactions from our readership and former staff alike. To those who failed to read past the headlines decrying The Maneater’s reduction to a weekly newspaper, it’s easy to see how the shift was misinterpreted as a languishing paper failing to keep up with its ancestry. Since 1969, The Maneater has printed two issues a week and grappled its way through editorial and financial scrutiny to maintain its place in the Columbia media empire.

This decision was not motivated by financial or editorial shortfalls. Rather, the choice to scale back the newspaper’s production was made out of the best interests of our staff and its resources. It bears underscoring the fact that our coverage is not being reduced but only the frequency of the physical paper. Many people have also erroneously presumed our commitment to more timely online coverage, which we intend to more than make up for the equality in overall content, is a scapegoat for a gap created by the change in frequency of our printed newspaper.

It’s not. It’s something we’ve been trying and needing to do for a long time, but have been blocked by the demands of a twice weekly paper. In fact, I believe the twice weekly paper to have been a gross inefficiency of our coverage in recent years. As a twice weekly, we did our best to toe the line between timeliness and comprehensive coverage, but since the emergence of breaking news online — and particularly the spread of news on social media — that role became harder and harder to effectively fulfill, and I noticed we ended up wasting a lot of energy chasing our tails, so to speak. Editors and reporters, who after all are still full-time students, would be spending more than 12 straight hours each night in the newsroom the night before publication, on top of the countless hours spent in preparation the days before, and still fall short of breaking or going more in-depth into the news.

Coming on to staff as a freshman, I was surprised to see how print-centric The Maneater newsroom operated. I came in with an interest and mild experience in digital journalism, but I felt, ironically, that I had more to teach The Maneater on that subject than it had to teach me. After becoming online development editor as a second-semester freshman, I pushed a lot to change that mentality, but the demands and structure of a twice weekly paper gave me little room to grow an online presence.

I ran for editor-in-chief last spring with the stipulation that this had to change, but rather than just rattling off the same buzzwords for the value of online journalism, I mandated an internal restructure that would be designed to better equate and foster strides in both digital and print journalism. This, I believe, is paramount in ensuring the relevance of this publication and the opportunities it offers and teaches its staff.

I’m excited about this shift in publication strategy because I don’t view it as a reduction in any way. It’s the next step in an evolution that’s been in the works since 1995. The Maneater has the great privilege of building the foundation of so many journalists’ careers here at MU, and the opportunities we afford and teach to them are a large part of the pride I have in this publication.

I expect our online coverage will get better by alleviating the fatigue of a twice-weekly production and our printed coverage to embody a higher quality now that more time is afforded to the news gathering and editing process for each story. Additionally, as we pay more attention to visuals and alternative means of presenting stories, I think you’ll notice just how talented this publication is.

Far from seeing a weaker, infrequent paper, you can expect to see a stronger, more comprehensive news publication that stretches out across multiple platforms, which in turn will produce better student journalists for years to come. That’s the excitement I have for this publication and the future of journalism and why I’m leading this change with little nostalgia for the superiority of newspapers in journalism.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you’ll consider sharing. Here’s how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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