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FHSU students go to new avenues for campus news

8/29/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

With no student newspaper, Fort Hays State University students are getting their news from a variety of sources -- emails, bulletin boards, even sidewalk chalk announcements in the quad.

Mariah Utter, a freshman from Brewster, said most of her campus news comes from email and Facebook.

"They do a lot of updating on there (Facebook), and through the emails I get through my Tiger Tracks account," she said.

The University Leader published only a handful of issues during the spring semester because of Student Government Association funding cuts for the 2012-13 school year.

"I think it's kind of hard to feel the loss because last semester they turned to digital, and so it kind of phased out," said Lindsay Day, a senior. "I don't think it's been noticed yet as much as most people would expect. I'm sure it'll be noticed. I'm sure a lot of people have actually noticed it, especially students that have been working with the newspaper expanding their English and getting it on their resume. Some people are used to just reaching over and grabbing a newspaper, and when that got taken away, that's when the notice started to dissipate."

After the funding cuts, FHSU President Edward H. Hammond formed a dissemination of news and information task force last spring that recommended a new multimedia organization -- Tiger Media Network, a convergence of print, broadcast, and Web journalism and social media.

Chris Crawford, assistant provost for quality management, chairs a Hammond-appointed board that oversees the media network.

SGA approved allocating $51,801.50 for the Leader for 2013-14, and $26,546.20 for KFHS, the university radio and television station.

Hammond exercised his line-item veto on SGA's allocations bill to combine the amounts, and the total $78,347.70 was earmarked for the new multimedia organization.

The university matched that with an additional $75,000.

"That total of $150,000 will fund the new student media operation in the coming academic year," Kent Steward, director of university relations, wrote in an email earlier this summer.

The broadcast arm, website and social media is up and running this fall.

"I don't expect to see a print edition this semester," said Scott Robson, communications studies department chairman.

Some students, such as Margaret Waymire, miss the newspaper.

"I'm upset. I'm an English major, and a lot of the English majors used the Leader for writing experience, and being able to put that on the resume was good," she said. "Now without us having this, we're falling behind with all of the other universities in Kansas and across the nation. I'm really upset about them cutting the funding for that."

TMN has advertised and filled positions for staff reporters, video/audio producers and a news producer, Robson said.

Student editors and producers should be "able to make decisions on what to run," he said.

The media organization had a retreat last weekend.

Those working at the network were "showing a much stronger interest in digital" media, Robson said. "I'm pushing for print."

He'd like to see eight print issues a year, with features and in-depth coverage of issues. He also hopes to have reporters "go back to beats."

A decision on a print edition will come after an executive director for the network is hired, Crawford said in an interview this summer.

A job description is being crafted, and an executive director should be hired soon. Other professional positions will be phased in as money becomes available, Robson said.

A website, tmn.fhsu.edu is online, and there will be "a big push (to let students know about it) when new content comes online in a week or 10 days," Robson said.

The new media network has the "potential for good things ahead," said Larry Dreiling, senior field editor of the High Plains Journal and FHSU adjunct professor.