Carolyn Pallof | Senior Staff Photographer
With classes, meetings and events moving online, why can’t the newspaper?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Pitt News has reduced print editions this academic year from four days a week to only Wednesdays. The 110-year old newspaper will publish digital newsletters on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as continue to update its website and social media pages — Instagram, Twitter and Facebook — on a daily basis with breaking news.
The Pitt News was founded as The Pitt Weekly, a weekly newspaper, in 1910. Since then, the paper’s print frequency changed over the years, before settling two years ago on producing a print edition Monday through Thursday, with a digital edition on Fridays. But this year, the paper decided to focus more intensely on its digital presence with less students physically on campus and industry-wide decreases in advertising revenue.
The Pitt News started a crowdfunding page in order to recoup some of the lost ad revenue and help fund the weekly print edition, digital newsletters and staff salaries. It has raised more than $15,000 so far.
Editor-in-Chief Jon Moss said the switch to once a week allows for The Pitt News to explore new and innovative ways to reach the Pitt community with breaking and interesting news.
“I think our production changes for this fall put The Pitt News in a sweet spot, as we continue to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape of journalism,” Moss, a junior marketing major, said. “Having one print paper a week allows us to enhance the quality of that issue, while an increased focus on online publishing allows us to further grow our web presence. Engagement on our website spiked over the summer and we look forward to continuing that trend into the fall semester.”
The Pitt News reduced print editions two years ago to only four times a week and created a digital newsletter on Fridays. This decision was made by The Pitt News Advisory Board, which publishes the newspaper, as an effort to free up time to focus on digital content. Additionally, as more and more print newspapers become obsolete in favor of digital editions, The Pitt News needed to work on creating a sustainable digital business model.
Mary Rose O’Donnell, the managing editor and a senior information science and digital narrative major, said The Pitt News and staff have adapted well to the change to a more digital presence.
“Cutting so many print days isn’t ideal of course, but I think we’ve taken it in stride and have been able to adjust to the digital format really well. I think we’ve definitely developed a digital-first mindset since we were forced to go online only back in March due to the pandemic,” O’Donnell said. “While I miss being in the office working with everyone, I’m glad everyone at TPN has been able to adapt to this new normal.”
The weekly Wednesday print editions will consist of 24 pages full of stories from the news, opinions, culture and sports desks. The news desk will continue to cover breaking news around campus, which will be updated online and on social media pages as it happens. Digital editions feature stories from all desks in an online format.
The digital desk is run by three editors and about seven regular writers, many of whom also work for other desks on The Pitt News. This desk is responsible for blogs, which are biweekly ongoing stories varied in content and topic, as well as web development and the paper’s social media accounts.
Megan Williams, the digital manager and a senior English major, said as online newspapers continue to become the primary source of information for people, new opportunities are created for content and format of stories.
“Online papers are not bound by physical space and orientation — meaning that we at The Pitt News have a unique opportunity to tell stories that might have previously gone unpublished in a printed paper,” Williams said. “I get to highlight the voices of people who wouldn’t have made the front page — in my little online sphere, their stories are the most important things in the world.”