It’s Tuesday. Chloe Forbes, the senior editor-in-chief of The Gannon Knight, walks three steps from one side of her office to the other.
On one side of her office, her administrative desk is filled with a desktop computer, photos and notes from this week’s issue, which will publish the following day.
The table that she walks to on the other side of her office is not something you typically see in the office of a periodical. It has a desktop of its own, two microphones, a sound mixer and soundproof foam — the school color maroon, of course. She opens Adobe Audition on this desktop, creates a new file, and presses record.
“Welcome back, Knights. I’m Chloe Forbes, the editor-in-chief of The Gannon Knight. This week in news…”
Forbes shares what stories readers can see in the next “paper.”
Why is “paper” in quotation marks? Because, as of last spring, the Knight is now an online-only publication, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. When everything shut down last March, there were no students on campus to pick up the paper anymore, so the staff took a new approach.
“There was already a website put in place [before the pandemic], but no one was able to really keep up with it,” Forbes said. “So, we decided to go through the updating process… We came up with a new logo, a new website design, and we just started building up.”
And no more actual paper.
Now, the website has individual tabs for each section, individual pages for each story, digital files of each issue, and, as of Feb. 16th, podcasts, all in one place.
“I’ve noticed, really, that with my generation, especially now that we’re in college and we’re going on with our adult lives, we’re always on the go,” said junior Madeline Bruce, the Knight features editor. “We don’t really have time to sit down and read the news. So, a really nice thing about podcasts is that you can listen to it on your way to work, school, walking downtown, walking back from class.”
The idea of newspapers going digital and adding podcasts is not new. Edinboro University began this approach in 2015, merging The Spectator student paper, television and radio into one site, EdinboroNow.com. They also do a series of podcasts. According to their faculty, “the power of our approach can be seen in the success of our alumni, which include top talent at some of the nation’s largest media providers.”
Currently, The Merciad at Mercyhurst has a paper and runs those stories on their website but works with Laker Student Media to create digital content, and The Behrend Beacon at Penn State-Behrend has not started creating digital content but still runs their paper.
While the staff at the Knight admits these new Under The Arch podcasts are just experimenting with the medium until they wrap up the school year, the underclassmen plan on spending their three-month summer break exploring the possibilities for next year.
“I think, because we’re college students, and because [our podcasting] is in its infancy, there is a lot of untapped potential,” said junior Michael Guido, the Knight news editor. “So, I do hope next year is the time where we really, instead of just dipping our toes in the water, we dive in and we start running with this thing.”
Guido has not been on a published podcast yet, but he’s an avid fan. He believes segments from The New York Times and Politico can serve as a foundation for the Knight‘s future, such as long-form discussions that expand the discussion of a topic covered in a shorter format by the paper or conversations with guests from outside The School of Communication and The Arts to provide a different but informed perspective. Everything is on the table.
“Within the next four or five years, we’re going to see [this digital conversion] as a matter of course,” said M.C. Gensheimer, co-director of The School of Communication and The Arts. “Journalism students will be able to write, produce, perform, be a part of a team and adapt to whatever the situation may be easily, seamlessly, and without thinking about it… I’m real excited about it.”
For Forbes, her time podcasting for the Knight will be short-lived because she graduates in May. But she believes her idea to start using this medium has set forth a strong path for her staff to continue on without her.
“It might just start just changing the way people consume news,” she said. “So, I want students to just have a more accessible way. So, whether that means making [news] for them to listen to, for them to watch, for them to read — whatever makes it easiest for them… to just kind of expand on the digital landscape of journalism.”