Beginning Jan. 23, the College Heights Herald will make one of the most significant transitions in its 93-year history. The Herald will publish its print edition weekly, with significantly expanded digital coverage every day on WKUHerald.com.
This is a decision that was reached after consulting with the professional staff and having led a group of Herald staffers in discussions about the future of the publication. The best path forward for the Herald is to decrease our print production to once a week and increase our coverage online. There are layers to this decision, so allow me to outline them.
As you know, WKU cut our reserve fund in half, meaning the $101,000 we had in our reserves last June 30 now stands at $50,000. Because we have no assurances that our remaining reserve will be protected, that fund could be tapped again to cover WKU’s ongoing budget deficit.
While this move was detrimental to the Herald, it is not at the root of these changes.
At least 90 percent of Herald revenue comes from advertising in the print paper. But times are changing for advertisers and this past semester we saw Herald revenues drop by 35 percent compared to the previous fall.
The fact is, if our reserve fund had remained intact, we likely would have taken the Spring 2018 semester to plan these changes, and then implemented them in Fall 2018. The loss of our cushion, however, meant it could risk long-term damage to the Herald, financially and from a quality perspective, to continue with the status quo for another semester.
Let me be clear about this: Even if the university hadn’t raided our reserve funds, moving to once a week in print would have inevitably happened. The market is changing and we’re not able to dependably rely on advertising revenues to continue funding our current model of twice-a-week print publication in this climate.
The Herald is not alone in this challenge. Dozens of terrific college news organizations have cut back their printing schedule in recent semesters, including the Indiana Daily Student, the Kentucky Kernel and The Crimson White. In fact, the Herald held out years longer than many of its peers by working hard get the newspaper into the hands of the WKU community, and by generating new revenue from off-campus advertisers to compensate for a long-term and steady decline in what is collectively our largest advertising client — the university.
The times are changing and so must we.
On the bright side, several of our younger staffers have expressed that they are eager to see this transition through.
The Herald is going to be evolving this semester, and that can be a bit scary because we’re going to be constantly molding what it looks like. Chances are it’s not going to look like the Herald you worked on or the Herald you led. It’s not going to look like the Herald I started off with my freshman year, either. But I know the Herald at its core will allow for these changes to flourish, which is why, despite the change, I’m not worried at all.
The Herald remains the best source of news and information about the WKU community and is tightly woven into the fabric of WKU. There is no better or more comprehensive source for independent coverage of the university and its community than the Herald, which has covered this institution since Jan. 29, 1925.
We believe our plan — more news faster on the web, with unique and enterprising content in print — is a combination for success. We intend to address the WKU community’s expectation of instant access to news and information by “upping our game” on the website. And we hope to preserve the deeper coverage, excellent storytelling and exceptional photography in a weekly print edition that delivers knowledge and context by focusing on enterprise, features, investigations, profiles and explanatory journalism.
We’re using one of the best collegiate publications in the nation — one that has won the Pacemaker Award, the nation’s top honor for a student-run publication, 16 times — as the foundation of excellence to build a vibrant future.
I welcome your feedback and support during this time of change for the Herald. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out, thank you.