• A Fond – but Necessary – Farewell to The Aquin

    In the past two weeks, I’ve heard a few squeals of protest from former Aquin editors lamenting the planned disappearance of the hard-copy newspaper – this Friday’s edition will be the final one – in favor of the “all-digital student media convergence” at TommieMedia.com beginning this fall.

    They argue that a newspaper distributed around campus attracts readers not likely to go to a specific website and provides a permanent record, holding student reporters accountable for the stories they write.

    I am as traditional a journalist (and news consumer) as you can find. I spent 26 years chasing news stories. I can’t imagine eating breakfast without a copy of a newspaper in front of me. And I don’t want to think about taking a computer screen into the john.

    But I am also a realist and, my friends, this train has left the station. The ship has sailed. Web-based journalism is here to stay and the evidence mounts daily, from Seattle to Denver to the Twin Cities.


    So, I’m thinking the St. Thomas Department of Communication and Journalism might as well lead the way, rather than following heel marks on the news-gathering landscape. The fact that UST is out front is illustrated by the attention the TommieMedia announcement attracted.

    “Next semester,” David Brauer reported in MinnPost.com, “the campus newspaper will be like the rotary telephone on the St. Thomas: extinct…

    “Earlier this year, the Minnesota Daily dropped its Friday print edition to become, in editor Vadim Lavrusik’s word, a ‘seven-day news provider’ with a weekend online edition. On some level, St. Thomas is just cutting to the chase in the battle for the future.”

    Here’s why I think that future is brighter now for UST student journalists:

    News stories can be posted daily, not weekly, making Tommie journalists more competitive, especially with stories that attract attention from the downtown professional media. When a student goes missing, St. Thomas student reporters won’t have to wait a week to get the story out.

    TommieMedia advisers are dedicated to covering news stories of importance to the UST community. They are unequivocal: “We will continue to practice journalism, but we will do more of it in a more realistic way. In other words, we’ll emphasize more news and less paper.”

    The advisers, all six of them, are thoughtful teachers, scholars AND professionals. Two of them have decades of daily newspaper experience and one is a veteran broadcast news reporter. All of them know how important it is to cover the St. Thomas community – fearlessly and fairly.

    TommieMedia will provide valuable practical experience – and perhaps a little, daily deadline spirit – for broadcast, public relations and advertising majors: ads to be designed and sold, promotions to be developed and launched, and video tracks to be shot, written, edited and posted with 24 hours.

    Printing a hard-copy Aquin is wasteful – not enough bang for the buck. The cost is almost $20,000 a year to print 2,600 copies of the paper each week. And each week, I see anywhere from two to 10 bundles of the paper lying on the floor or on counters in front of the post office.

    So, I am facing the inevitable, embracing the technology and awaiting the arrival of TommieMedia.com. But the truth is I shall miss walking into Scooter’s in the morning and seeing a half-dozen students at the tables, their heads down, reading their own personal copy of The Aquin.

    That is my definition of a shared experience.

    13 Comments

    • Le, Stillwater

      Remember when we had this conversation, probably two years ago? I’m sad that we’re seeing our conclusions come to pass.

      12 May 2009 07:05 am
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    • Tom King, West St. Paul

      Say it isn’t so!
      The Aquin served as “My Weekly Reader” in the Grill all four years of my undergrad days in the late 50′s.
      Replete with the “whassup” on the campus in those good old days, we read the fine words of President James Shannon’s column. His “On the Definition of a Gentleman” is still a classic.
      I always enjoyed then Editor Dick Conklin’s columns. He still turns out well-crafted prose for St. Thomas magazine.
      Some good words need to be held in our hands as well as our minds.
      Twittering, where we seem to be headed, is far too terse and short on pithy.
      And you can’t mop up a spilt cup of coffee with your laptop either.
      In the words of Vonnegut: “And so it goes.”

      12 May 2009 08:05 am
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    • Michael Bublitz, St Paul

      While Dave Nimmer is right, I am also very sad to see the Aquin go. It has served the CST/UST comunity for a long time. It a is part of our history.

      12 May 2009 09:05 am
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    • Andrew, St. Paul

      No one is going to read the paper online, period. Even if St. Thomas is following the trend of newspapers going online, that national trend is because people are canceling their subscriptions and reading the news online. That trend is not present or documented at St. Thomas, and moving it to online, unless there are links all over everything, is not making the news any more available to the students; it’s hiding it from them.
      Getting rid of the paper in newspaper has got to be one of the worst ideas this school has come up with except for banning Desmund Tutu. I think you guys have too much faith in St. Thomas students to read news online. We’re a community of people who hardly read the hard copy as is. I’m an avid Aquin reader and I know I would never read it online simply because I won’t remember to. I hope the paper has an aggressive advertising campaign that will always be active because as far as I can see, the Aquin is dead.

      12 May 2009 12:05 pm
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    • Hannah, St. Paul

      R.I.P.

      12 May 2009 01:05 pm
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    • Mike Brandell, St. Paul

      I am deeply saddened that the print edition of the Aquin will no longer be made. I understand that on-line journalism is here. However, I think that you’ll find that a lot of students still want paper newspapers. I hope that whomever made this decision will reconsider.

      12 May 2009 02:05 pm
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    • Tim, St. Paul

      I’ve got to question the underlying assumption that if one technological avenue is so much better than “the old way,” then all technological avenues must be better.
      Yes, it is true that online media costs less and is able to better react to developing stories, but what does it give up in the process? Access to a wide range of readers who prefer not to read stories in digital format, prominence of printed stories, and value in the published news (news published online is cheap compared to news in print).
      It would seem that an alternative approach, one which utilized the best features of both formats, would have been wiser than getting rid of print altogether.

      12 May 2009 03:05 pm
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    • Jim Kelly, Honolulu

      I still have a rotary phone and it works just fine, especially when the power goes out. I don’t know why it has to be an either-or proposition and why the Web can’t be used to break news, with a print newspaper specializing in enterprise and deeper reporting. If there are piles of unread papers, that may say more about the content than the format.

      12 May 2009 04:05 pm
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    • Nicholas, Eagan

      I’m looking forward to adding an RSS feed from TommieMedia.com to my iGoogle homepage, right next to the feeds from TommieSports.com, Bulletin Today and The Scroll.

      12 May 2009 04:05 pm
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    • Pamela Henrickson ’08, Minneapolis

      As a former Aquin writer, editor and designer, I can understand the hesitation to embrace a Web-only newspaper, and the nostalgic feeling so many have toward black, smudgy newsprint fingers.
      But the arguments for the move to a student media convergence on TommieMedia.com far outweigh the “that’s how it’s always been” and “I don’t like change” arguments against it. Upon hearing the news, I, too, instantly shot back with the argument that “no one will seek it out on the Web.” However, you must remind yourself that picking up the paper is just as much a decision as subscribing to the TommieMedia.com RSS feed or following it on Twitter. And it will remain true that those who care will read it, and those who choose to remain ignorant about the world around them will not, regardless of the format.
      The COJO Department is making a move that many in the field will no doubt follow. I only hope the St. Thomas community continues to support the work of these aspiring student journalists — young people who, under the guidance of exceptional professors, provide dignified and necessary service to the school.

      12 May 2009 06:05 pm
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    • Sami, St. Paul

      Aquin, R.I.P.

      12 May 2009 07:05 pm
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    • Shane Frederick, Mankato

      As a former Aquin editor (fall, ’93), I, too, am sad to see the paper disappear.
      While I think the overall journalism experience will now be stronger for TommieMedia (they should have kept The Aquin name, no?) students. I can only hope that they will be able to have the same sense of community and pride that comes from working together to put out the university’s news.
      My memories will always be of Monday-evening dinners with the editors; late, late Tuesday nights with the staff; and Friday-morning coffees with Nim at Scooters, poring over the final product.
      The value, for me, was in the experience, and I hope that continues to be the case for St. Thomas’ future journalists, even if there is no longer a paper to pick up, carry and read at the end of the week.

      13 May 2009 08:05 am
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    • S. Moore, St Paul

      If two to 10 bundles were lying around, maybe you were printing too many. Print half as many, spend less, waste less. Notice that online is just one way of accessing the news. Typically when companies stop printing paper, they’re dead … not continuing online. Think about that.

      29 May 2009 02:05 pm
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