Ask a journalist about the state of the media, and chances are you’ll get an answer full of doom and gloom.
Circulation is down. Ratings are down. Advertising revenue is falling. Editorial staffs across the country are being cut.
As journalists, we like to blame profit-hungry corporations for the decline in jobs. But that’s just a symptom. The real culprit is us. Don’t feel guilty; we are no different than the rest of the world. We just don’t consume news like we used to. We don’t buy as many newspapers and we don’t tune in to newscasts as often. More and more of us are turning to the Internet.
New technology is splintering the once-unified audience of news consumers. One-size-fits-all delivery methods no longer work.
It was this rationale that led to the creation of Digital Quill.
Benefits of Digital Quill
Digital Quill is designed to be an alternative to the printed version, not a replacement. Those of us who prefer to flip through the pages while relaxing on the couch don’t have to worry. SPJ will continue to print and mail Quill.
But those who choose to consume information electronically now have another option — one that fully integrates Quill magazine with SPJ’s Web site and the rest of the Internet.
Web links that are printed in the magazine become live in the digital version. Sending an e-mail is just a click away. For this reason, you may notice throughout this issue an increase in the number of Web addresses. When you see one of these links, more learning opportunities are a simple mouse click away.
For instance, on Page 36, writer David Cullier discusses Sunshine Week and the ways newsrooms can celebrate it. Accompanying his piece are links to Sunshine Week activities and other Freedom of Information training opportunities.
All you need to access Digital Quill is an up-to-date Web browser and current e-mail address on file with SPJ. It doesn’t require special software, and issues aren’t downloaded to your desktop. You can get to your copy from any Internet connection at any time.
Why a digital version?
In the beginning, the concept revolved around readership habits. We thought this would be a great addition to Quill. But we faced the same question many news organizations face: How do we pay for a new product on our current budget?
After evaluating our expenses, one area stood out.
SPJ spends thousands of dollars each year to print Quill. A fair portion of that goes toward issues that are delivered to our student members, which make up almost a quarter of SPJ.
However, many students never receive Quill because their addresses change often or the campus mail system is inefficient. Hundreds of dollars are spent every issue on copies that never reach their target.
We felt that creating a digital version would eliminate a good portion of this wasted cost. That money could then be applied toward creating a digital version. Although students’ mailing addresses change often, their e-mails don’t.
Furthermore, we felt that our student members would find the digital issue to be a fun and interactive tool to help them in their education. Then we decided to make it an option for all of our members.
In November, SPJ’s executive committee gave the go-ahead to make Digital Quill available on a trial basis to all members for four issues (February, March, April and May).
During this time, every member with an active e-mail address on file with SPJ will receive a link to Digital Quill. The board of directors will gather in May to discuss the experiment and decide how to proceed.
This decision will be based on several factors, including how our members respond over the next four months.
If the national board decides to continue Digital Quill, the process will be very simple. Every student member will continue to receive the digital version instead of the printed version. All professional members will continue to receive the printed version instead of the digital version. Students may opt-out out of the digital version at any time and receive a printed copy. Likewise, professional members may opt-in to the digital version. You can change your preference at any time, but you will receive Quill in only one format.
I encourage everyone to take a peek at the new Digital Quill and send us your comments. SPJ is your organization, and Quill is your magazine.
To receive Digital Quill, SPJ must have your current e-mail address on file. You can provide this by visiting www.spj.org/members_edit.asp or calling (317) 927-8000, ext. 200. To send comments about Digital Quill or to request a printed copy, e-mail editor Joe Skeel at firstname.lastname@example.org