Former UG Exchange student Michael Marquardt from the US wrote to our colleague Dr Leighton Evans recently explaining that “I still think back fondly on your Media History class as one of the highlights of my time in Wales” further remembering “our discussion on the relevance of newspapers in the modern digital era, and being shocked when we discovered I was the only student in the entire seminar that still reads newspapers. With that in mind, I thought you might enjoy this story from a former student across the pond, and it may even develop further discussions in your seminars…” Michael’s story has real feelgood element to it…
For the past two years, I have worked as a photographer for The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the alt-weekly student newspaper serving Colorado State University and Northern Colorado (primarily the city of Fort Collins, but also occasionally the neighboring city of Loveland, the state’s capital city of Denver, and rarely nearby Rocky Mountain National Park). In addition to publishing daily online while the university is in session, we also publish 5,000 print copies every Thursday, which are distributed across the entire city. At the end of my term in Wales, the paper hired a new Editor in Chief who quickly made several operational changes, including requiring photographers to pursue, develop, and publish at least one story entirely on their own each term.
In January, I approached our photo directors for help finding a story to cover in order to meet this requirement for the current spring term, and one responded with a story that I was rather excited about: there is a local band that formed 25 years ago and has recently gotten a new singer, who was formerly signed to Capitol Records and had competed on two incredibly popular televised singing competitions, American Idol and Mexico’s La Voz, before deciding to move back to Colorado from Los Angeles.
They had a concert coming up in early February, and he suggested that I photograph their concert and do a follow-up photoshoot and interview during a rehearsal. I had initially scheduled the follow-up and interview two weeks after the concert that I photographed, but the band postponed by one week, leaving me just one day to cull, edit, and caption photos, as well as write the story, before my deadline. Then, on the morning of the follow-up, they postponed again, indefinitely. I tried to write a story based on what I had, but I had so little to work off of that we decided instead to run a one-page photo gallery:
When I saw that the gallery had been published this morning, I sent these same images in a text message to the band’s singer, who called me to say thank you for getting this gallery published and to apologize for the constant delays. He told me that the guitarist – who also works for the university – thinks that nobody reads the newspaper, and everyone has shifted to radio and TV news. Because of this, he didn’t see any value in continuing this story if the photos had to remain the exclusive property of the paper due to copyright laws, which ended up being the reason for the delays. Apparently, this caused a significant argument in the band which nearly caused them to break up after 25 years!
There are two parts of this story that I find fascinating. One is that, despite our wide distribution and our data showing that several thousand people do in fact read our paper each week, the public perception is that print news is no longer a relevant form of media. The other is that despite the vastly different media environment in the US versus the UK, print media is facing the same challenges on both sides of the pond.
Hopefully, this story sparks some useful discussion, or at least provides some interest on what is almost certainly a cold and dreary Friday morning in Swansea!
(Mumbler Editor writes– You were obviously in Swansea long enough to understand the weather Michael ! Thank you for the story – great to hear that in the age of the digital, good old fashioned newsprint still has something to contribute. For those of you who want to see more of Michael’s work, you can find it here