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Friday, 21 April 2017 14:39

Editor's blog: High school yearbook ushers in a new generation of journalists

Written by 
Stateline News editor Dan Plutchak and yearbook students at Beloit Memorial High School. Stateline News editor Dan Plutchak and yearbook students at Beloit Memorial High School.

When I asked a group of high school students how long it's been since they read a printed newspaper, I had a pretty good idea I already knew the answer.

They hadn't read one in two weeks, or even a month. A few had read one in the past year, so I guess that's one good thing.

I had been invited to instructor Mary Weaver and Amanda Sellen's yearbook class at Beloit Memorial High School to talk about how we approach putting out the Stateline News each week.

However, I really was interested in hearing from them how they connect with the readers of the "Beloiter," the school's yearbook.

Even though they hadn't picked up a paper in a very long time, they knew everything about what's been in our newspapers.

The knew about BMHS grad Tony Scodwell, on the cover of the current Sunday Stateline News, being inducted into the school's hall of fame this week.

They knew about the manhunt for Joseph Jakubowski.

And I'll bet they knew everything that was going on in their school building that day.

What they told me illustrates the profound changes underway in the news business. It also told me it's an exciting time to be in the publishing business, despite the gloomy outlook in the trade press.

Even though they rarely read print now, studies show that when this crowd gets older and are ready to buy sofas and cars and houses that news in print will become more important to them.

That's why it's important to figure out how to reach them, because they are the news consumers of the future.

The world of social media has so many choices, and their online social media preferences were more varied than I thought.

Some use Snapchat, but less than I thought. More than I would have guessed are on Twitter. There still are some on Facebook and Instagram. And I was surprised to learn the blogging site Tumblr was a preferred platform by some of the students.

What gave me confidence about the future is that the concerns and challenges of this group of young journalists were the same that we have putting out our weekly newspapers.

Over the years, the Stateline News (and other weeklies in our group) has become a hybrid print and online publication in order to stay connected with our readers and advertisers.

In print, we're more of a magazine than a traditional paid weekly newspaper. But online, we're a daily, features and breaking news platform.

Like the Stateline News, the yearbook creates content at a much greater rate than can be published in print. However, print remains the most important product each of us produces.

We also talked about online and social media and how hard it is to develop a workable strategy.

They also wanted to know practical things, like how to take better photographs. (Although from what I saw, they are better photographers than they give themselves credit for  -- see below.)

Those all are the things we work on daily here at the Stateline News.

So I was glad to learn that even if my generation doesn't quite figure out the future of news, a new generation already is on it.



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