NORMAN — Wednesday was supposed to mark the end of this summer's print edition of the University of Oklahoma newspaper so staff could focus on online-only content and operations.
But OU Student Media Department officials reversed the decision after the OU Student Affairs Division offered to donate $4,000 to the department to be used in a yearlong study to examine how to improve the newspaper.
Brian Ringer, director of Student Media, said there was no agreement to resume printing The Oklahoma Daily in exchange for the funds, but he said a conversation was held in which it was decided that the staff would continue to produce a newspaper through the summer.
He said the funds also will provide budget relief for the newspaper.
“Any of us in the newspaper business are ecstatic that we get to keep printing,” he said. “I don't want to see this market go away completely.”
The Daily announced earlier this month that it would scale back the print product this summer to experiment with online advertising and readership. The plan was to suspend a print newspaper for July and resume printing in August.
Editor Chris Lusk said the move would allow student journalists to focus on a constant news-cycle and help them evaluate how to better tell stories in print.
After hearing about the plan to reverse the decision, Lusk said he is frustrated that staff members won't be able to see how the website fares without a newspaper. He said it's important to take a different approach sometimes in order to revamp a product.
“It was not just the newsroom that was standing to benefit from this monthlong trial,” he said, adding that the hope was to measure how the community and readers might respond to receiving news online.
Lusk said he was told Student Affairs fielded concerns from people who were unhappy with the paper going online-only in July. He said the staff didn't receive many complaints in the newsroom, and the decision to reverse the trial came as a shock.
“It was very unexpected,” he said. “This was supposed to be our last production date, and things were going to change.
“I don't like the fact that a little bit of money comes into the equation, and we suddenly reverse our stance as to why we're doing this.”
Editorial Adviser Judy Gibbs Robinson said students felt like the monthlong trial was a prequel to the study in the fall, but school officials felt the paper should do the study first.
Ringer said some data won't be able to be collected during the summer due to the recent print decision.
“What would our traffic look like if we had no paper, no product in July? Obviously that data going into our study would have been pretty valuable to us,” Ringer said.
Regardless of the data loss, he said he's thrilled the newspaper will publish through the summer.
“I'm extremely happy that we're printing again,” Ringer said.