New media v. old media back home at ol’ Mizzou

Back at my alma mater, the journalism school‘s faculty and the board of the Columbia Missourian are trying to figure out what the heck to do with a failing community newspaper.

There’s nothing unusual about the situation. Newspapers all over the country are in the same sinking boat and have been for years. Print sales are falling, and classified sales are virtually nonexistent. But there is something unusual about the Missourian: The paper serves as a learning lab for every student in a print or online media sequence in the journalism school. It’s not a student newspaper — it’s a community daily.

(However, one of MU’s student newspapers, the Maneater, covered the story here.)

The board is interested in being financially stable, but because of the Missourian’s place in the j-school curriculum, they also have to meet the needs of the students. So they’re throwing every option out there for consideration, including abandoning the 100-year-old press across the street (Missouri is the country’s oldest journalism school) and going putting all of their eggs in the online basket.

The story broke several weeks ago, but for some reason, just this week the j-school alumni have started discussing the plight of the Missourian on our Yahoo group. Since it’s so personal to all of us who suffered through the crash course in newspaper journalism that the Missourian provides, it’s been the most heated and nuanced discussion I’ve seen about new media.

The Missourian has been ahead of its time in going online, creating a citizen journalism project, offering a downloadable PDF version of the daily print version, mobile news and multimedia storytelling. Will it also be an early adopter of the next way to be a newspaper — to eliminate the paper? It’s hard to say just yet, beause this isn’t about the fate of a newspaper. It’s about where journalism education is right now and where it will go next.

Up next, the best of the alumni arguments.