The Collegian, Onward State, and the State of the Media
One of the adjustments I’ve had to make as I moved from daily newspaper journalism to every-other-month magazine journalism is how much time we at The Penn Stater devote to story selection. We don’t just come up with an idea, assign it, edit it, publish it. We can spend months and months figuring out the best writer for a story, the best angle to take on a story, and the best way for it to fit in our magazine, which averages only three full-length features an issue. We like to think of that space as prime real estate, and we want to use it to its best advantage.
One of the stories in our current issue, “Paper Chase,” has been in the works even longer. When I returned to campus in 2009, I noticed right away the changes in The Daily Collegian—where I had spent the vast majority of my time as an undergrad—and began paying careful attention to a new information source founded by students, the website Onward State. It turns out that my colleague Ryan Jones ’95, who had already been here for a couple of years and who had also worked at the Collegian, was doing the same thing. We needed a story, we said, about the state of student media. Was it mirroring, we wondered, the evolution of media everywhere?
I’m not kidding when I say we kicked that idea around, on and off, for nearly four years. (Yes, perhaps we could stand to streamline our story pitching process.) But news got in the way, and more timely stories popped up. But we kept kicking it around. We watched how the students covered the Sandusky scandal. We got to know many of the students who work at the Collegian and at Onward State. Some are my students. Some, Ryan and I mentor. Some, we know basically as fellow media members, sitting side-by-side in the Beaver Stadium press box or at the Board of Trustees media table.
Last spring, we finally settled on the perfect writer: another Collegian alum, Brian Raftery ’99, who is plugged in to the new media side of things as an intelligent and involved journalist and a contributing editor at Wired. He delved into the reporting and found a fabulous tale to tell. It’s in the issue that should be arriving in Alumni Association members’ mailboxes any day now (if it hasn’t already), but because we suspect this will have wider interest beyond our usual readers, we’re making an exception and posting it online. Click here to download a PDF.
We also want to note one clarification: Onward State managing editor Kevin Horne says that based on updated statistics from September 2013 to March 2014, their website averages about 50,000 page views a day, and has upward of 100,000 on a good day.
We hope you’ll enjoy the story. Let us know what you think.
Lori Shontz, senior editor