Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My Ryersonian

If I Was Making The Decisions ...

At some point, if The Ryersonian wants to be the number one paper on campus, it will have to decide who is its audience. Is the audience 25 journalism professors and instructors or is the audience 20,000 students? If it's the latter, then the paper needs change.

In my three years at the school, I've gone from reading The Ryersonian weekly to bi-weekly to monthly to sometimes to never. Why? Because most of what the paper has produced is birdcage material. Reading The Ryersonian is like being at a funeral and you want to be in the casket. This is no reflection on the people who have worked at the paper, but a reflection on the final product.

To fix the paper, in theory, is simple.

The Ryersonian aims to be the paper of Ryerson University record. That's a nice thought, but it's not what students want. That's evident in the number of Ryersonian issues left on the stand in comparison to The Eyeopener.

What The Ryersonian needs to do is embrace the fact that it is a tabloid and that it needs to play by a tabloid's rules. Sensationalism is in. Loud and large headlines are in. Fun is in. This also means giving the writers their voices back. The Ryersonian shouldn't read like boring wire copy.

Next semester, The Ryersonian has the best chance for a real relaunch. With the Online Stream's website, the day-to-day Ryerson events won't have to be covered in huge detail. Most Ryerson news can be covered in briefs. The website isn't The Ryersonian's competitor, so full-blown coverage as it is now in the paper would just be repetitive.

Instead, The Ryersonian needs to produce short feature stories a la the relaunched Maclean's. The great thing about Maclean's right now is that while being a week behind the news, it finds new angles to frame stories. Also Maclean's publishes investigative pieces--another thing The Ryersonian must produce.

These short features and investigative pieces shouldn't be exclusively Ryerson-related: they should be issues that are important to students anywhere.

Also needing to be revamped is the editorial page. Editorials should be ones that lead to debate, not yawns. Related to this is the inclusion of columns. How many? I'm not sure, but with the goal being to bring readers back to the paper each week, a column can help the cause.

And that is my real goal--bring reader's back. Serialized features and weekly departments would find their way into the paper. And perhaps something like a crossword or a game of sudoku. I'm not sure how much it would cost, but to add one or both of those would ensure that at least some people would pick up the paper on a weekly basis.

Finally, The Ryersonian needs to promote itself better. That includes better placement of newsstands and that includes promoting the writers and stories for the first time.


Post Script: It may seem that with this, I've made my decision to go into print next year. But nothing is decided. If I go to print, I want The Ryersonian to change. And to do this, I'd probably need a high position on the masthead (not to mention the confidence from everyone else working on the paper).

If I'm being realistic, though, I have doubts on whether I'd have the votes to become managing editor. And in that case, I'd rather go to a stream where everything is new and there is no history of being an unreadable publication.

Post Post Script: By the way, these are only my ideas now. I'm sure working with everyone else on the masthead, we'd come up with more and better ideas that achieve the goal of increased readership. There's no point of producing a paper that is technically professional if nobody reads it.


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