Should college publications go web first?

Should small newspapers post stories to the Web first (i.e. before the presses are running)? That's the very question Mark Van Patten explored in his blog on Media Shift today. It's the same question I ask myself asking about the Mustang Daily every day.

Each night, we do a little process called "shovelware." After the paper is printing, I'm finally allowed to copy and paste all the articles into our CMS.

It feels like such a ridiculous process (the web should not cater to print!), but it's really the only practical process.

I have to wait until 10 p.m. to post because stories are being copy edited right up until 9:59 p.m.

Being a student publication, our copy editors can't spend all day editing stories as the come. They have other commitments. They edit stories only when they have to. The whole atmosphere of our newsroom is based on the print deadline.

The only person who is truly committed to breaking/posting news as it happens is our sports editor. Although all our staff claims to be pro-"new media," print is always their first priority. With sports though, we always have breaking news on our blog and on the site.

My goal: the extend this enthusiasm for the web to everyone on staff. (How to do it? Hell if I know. That'll be another blog).

What Van Patten notes in his blog is that a majority of his newspaper's readers don't go online for their news:

Right now, our readers aren’t particularly Internet savvy. Many still use dial-up for Internet access. They generally only check their email a couple times a week. They don’t know much about what’s available online. They still depend heavily on the printed paper for their news.

It's a proven statistic at the University too. Students pick up a paper while walking down the hall and read in class. Most of our online readers are alumni and parents.

But my rationale says the reason students don't go online for their news is because we're not posting news online until 10 p.m.

The news industry is a 24-hour industry. News doesn't only matter when the clock strikes 10. If we want to be an industry-leading college publication, we have to change up the way we do things.

Print editions will probably never die at universities. Why? Because Sudoku and crosswords ease boredom during lecture hall. There shouldn't be a worry that breaking the news online will hurt print. It won't.