The Community Editorial Board reflects on their experiences talking to community members this month.

Editorial: What to write when no one reads

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Breaking news! 

Aliens have abducted the president and are demanding that, in order to ensure his safe return, we must turn in all of our worldly possessions and return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The Brown and White will be closing, effective immediately, and all remaining print issues will be converted into clothing and shelter for the next stages of human life.

Of course, none of that’s true. But does it really matter what we say in this space? Only a few students are likely to read it anyway.

As the Brown and White’s editorial board, we decided to write an editorial about how few people read our editorials. The concept felt almost ironic, in a sense. How can one write an article addressed to those who likely won’t read the article in the first place? 

We considered writing this piece in Latin and debated crafting an entire fake story about aliens abducting the president. We even contemplated leaving the editorial space blank to see if anyone would notice.

Eventually we figured we’d devote this space to a discussion on the place that The Brown and White has within Lehigh culture. Or, more accurately, its lack thereof.

As a student-run publication, The Brown and White’s goal is to provide Lehigh students and the greater Bethlehem community with the most localized and pertinent information. Two print editions are distributed each week, along with an active website with many of the same articles from print, in addition to others.

Yet, if you asked the majority of Lehigh students where they get their Lehigh news from, most would probably say they rely on their friends, social media platforms and school-wide email updates. 

But why? Why would students be so hesitant to read a newspaper dedicated to providing them with the most relevant news catered toward their own college experience?

We don’t believe this readership issue stems from student laziness, nor is it due to a lack of engaging content on our part (at least we hope not). This lack of readership is instead a result of digitization. 

And this concept isn’t just specific to Lehigh students. 

With social media platforms rising in popularity, information is becoming increasingly accessible. Gen Z, accustomed to using fast-paced technologies, is far more comfortable swiping through social media platforms than dissecting long form editorial content. 

After all, why would you want to pick up a physical paper when your favorite app provides all of the information you could ever want at your fingertips? 

In our lifetimes, we have witnessed the rapid evolution of communication technologies, from newspapers to websites and television, and from websites and television to social media apps.

News organizations are struggling to keep up with these constant changes. While digitization offers speed and ease, print news is becoming less practical. 

For The Brown and White to be a more prominent aspect of Lehigh’s community and culture, it will have to utilize these newer technologies. 

Luckily, we have already started adapting. Our new media team has begun catching us up, creating visually appealing multimedia content to reach student demographics. Through Instagram Stories and podcasts, the team is working to package content in ways beyond just print editorial.

But despite these strides, our Instagram and Twitter following leaves much to be desired. 

The Lehigh Lookaway, a satirical Lehigh-related newsletter, has nearly 1,500 more Instagram followers than The Brown and White does.

Even so, the feeling around the newsroom today is one of realistic optimism. 

We know there is a strong contingent of alumni, faculty, parents and Bethlehem residents whose consistent readership helps this paper run. As we expand to adopt more of a multimedia presence, we are hopeful that we will continue to grow our audience as our output becomes increasingly digital. 

We’d like to give a shout-out to all of these readers who make our positions as student journalists fulfilling.

And to all the Lehigh students who engage with our Instagram page or read the paper on a regular basis, thank you, too. We appreciate your readership, and we hope that more students like you continue to keep this paper going long after we have graduated. Stay tuned for next week’s editorial where we dive into the zombie apocalypse!

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    “The Lehigh Lookaway, a satirical Lehigh-related newsletter, has nearly 1,500 more Instagram followers than The Brown and White does.” Your editorial gave me a new site to visit. A short visit was hit or miss, mostly miss. B&W is a higher standard of reporting while being not as creative, but there is too much creative “news” now anyway. Lookaway material is similar to that shown in one college newspaper and undoubtedly many others. The B&W doesn’t need it. As with other things popular (majority rules) is not necessarily better.

    “We know there is a strong contingent of alumni, faculty, parents and Bethlehem residents whose consistent readership helps this paper run.” Amen from an alumnus. The B&W is a professional product in the main, liberal as it might be. It is worth reading and I do so regularly and thoroughly. People deserve unbiased quality which is extremely difficult to produce, B&W makes the effort.

    “Stay tuned for next week’s editorial where we dive into the zombie apocalypse!” This or some other apocalypse will do. Waiting with bated breath.

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