President suggests mobile access to the newspaper via an app.
By Kyle R. Cotton
For years people across the U.S. have started their day with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper.
However, as time marches on and technology continues to evolve, the days of a physical ink-on-paper news publication are numbered as the news industry transitions to online only.
The Ranger is no exception to this trend.
Rick Casey, host of “Texas Week’”on KLRN, expects The Ranger to go the same route as many other newspapers.
“I don’t know much about the future of The Ranger, but I hope it matches the past,” Casey said. “I expect it to go the same way other newspapers go, and none of us are quite sure where that is going to go.”
Casey said he expects newspapers to go to an online subscription model for news.
He thinks it would be challenging to implement the model since people have been trained to believe online news should be free, but believes there will always be support for quality journalism.
“I think there is an audience for good, trustworthy journalism, and I think there always will be,” Casey said. “There are enough people willing to support it. It may be a minority, but it’s a substantial minority.”
Media communications Chair Marianne Odom doesn’t see The Ranger ever charging for the news, fearing it would limit the access of information it provides to the Alamo Colleges community.
She does, however, anticipate the student activities fee will eventually help fund The Ranger because of its important service to the community.
In the 1930s, The Ranger received funds from a similar fee for extracurricular activities called a blanket tax.
Students were encouraged to pay the tax, but not required.
President Robert Vela hopes the Ranger continues its service to the community, even if that may not include a print edition.
“The newspaper to me is a pillar of excellence at SAC. It really is what makes SAC unique among other colleges, and The Ranger has had such an excellent track record of success,” Vela said. “I really see the paper continuing what it’s always done, is providing a service to our community, our students, our staff and faculty.”
He continued, “I think one thing that any other newspaper is struggling with is how do you stay relevant to getting things to students in the community, and I think all newspapers are struggling with that.”
Vela said he wonders how The Ranger stays relevant in the digital age. “Is it a combination of online? Is it still print? I think that’s something that may change. How do you deliver it and how do you get it to people’s hands quickly?”
He suggested one option. “We may end up with an app or something, where folks can access it quickly at their disposal and always stay current with it.”
Vela prefers to read his news electronically, and while he doesn’t struggle getting to the story he needs to read among the noise of what’s trending, he does know other people struggle with that.
“I know there are some challenges around printing and cost and is that what students really prefer? Those kinds of things we really have to look at,” Vela said.
“I can see how it can be a challenge for some, because I want to get to the story I want to read, and if you’re struggling with it, that’s frustrating. So you want to see the print version, and I think that’s a real kind of thing for some people,” Vela said.
Odom sees the role of The Ranger as more important than ever given how quickly the Alamo Colleges is changing.
“There are so many changes in the college and the district, it seems even more important for readers, the colleges and the community to have access to more information about what’s going on,” Odom said. “I also see more challenges because the trend now is for students to come in knowing their major and taking only 60 hours and then transferring.
“Very often our most successful Ranger students have taken more than the minimum requirement of journalism courses and they’ve often stayed an extra semester to pursue photojournalism or have enough time to be an editor; that can still happen, but it’s not as encouraged as it once was.”
Odom agrees with Casey and Vela in eventually seeing The Ranger going completely online.
“At some point, I foresee not having a print Ranger. It takes an inordinate amount of time, although producing a quality digital-only publication also takes a lot of time,” Odom said. “On the other hand, I love newspapers, I always have, and it would be really traumatic if the print version went away.
“The way the industry is going, at some point, we probably won’t (print),” Odom said.
“The competition would be tremendous,” Odom said. “I definitely think we could get an app so students could easily get it on their phones. You can get it now, but it’s not as easy, but we would definitely have to have that. I think we would have to work a lot harder at getting The Ranger integrated in student development classes, used more frequently in English classes.”
Odom said she would like to see a “Welcome to The Ranger” screen in student labs.
“Obviously that hasn’t happened, but I think we would have to work really hard at better promotion if that happened,” Odom said.
“If people don’t read it, you don’t get feedback,” Odom said. “The wonderful thing about actually publishing … you get the public reaction. You’re responsible if you make a mistake and you hear about it. Once you put information out there, sources come forward, so it improves your ability to do more in-depth reporting. There really is no substitution for having things published, but saying that, you have to have people read what you’ve published.”
Odom sees opportunities to expand, as the learning outcomes for COMM 2311, Media Writing, now require multiple writing formats including radio and television.
“There are a lot of opportunities to expand what students are learning, but I would also really hate not to have a print version,” Odom said.
“However The Ranger gets to readers, it still takes time and money to produce a quality product. The amount of time spent working with each student on each assignment remains the same.”