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BYU's Daily Universe to become weekly newspaper

Published: Thursday, Jan. 12 2012 5:50 p.m. MST

Students work in the newsroom of the BYU student newspaper The Daily Universe.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives

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PROVO — The BYU Department of Communications announced major changes Thursday to its 57-year-old campus newspaper, the Daily Universe.

By semester’s end, it will only be printed weekly instead of five days a week.

“The Universe will continue to be a daily news organization and will post news digitally as it occurs, but the print edition will be published only one time a week, with special sections also occasionally produced,” Brad Rawlins, chairman of the communications department, said in an email sent to students and alumni.

The news was delivered to students in a meeting Thursday morning, and the reaction was mixed.

“I think the changes made are in the best interest of the future of the paper,” said Court Mann, Daily Universe arts and entertainment editor. “When we graduate, we need to be prepared for the way the industry is changing.”

However, many were sad to see the staff let go.

All eight full-time paid staff positions are being eliminated at the end of April, and new ones will be created in their place. The staff may apply for the newly created positions, said Susan Walton, associate chair of the BYU communications department.

"However, it is likely that the new digital lab structure will require fewer and different support positions than currently exist and that will require different skills," she said.

The 18 part-time student positions will remain in place until April and will be evaluated afterward.

The change will not affect the broadcasting schedule of "11 News," the KBYU TV student-produced newscast, officials said.

The change came as a result of both declining revenue and updated curriculum meant to reflect journalism in the digital age. Ad sales, particularly those of classified ads, have eroded, and the paper has operated at a loss since 2009.

Many students said they valued their time writing for the Daily Universe and enjoyed seeing their name in print as they built a sizable portfolio.

“I feel like the Daily Universe was the best part of my BYU education,” said recent BYU graduate Alex Hairston. “It gave me so many experiences, learning how to talk to people, learning how to write.”

The Daily Universe has made efforts to bolster its online presence. Video segments created by broadcast journalism students and sports podcasts are posted on the Universe website. In October, an app was created for smartphones that updated with stories. Still, some wonder if readership will decrease without free papers available daily throughout campus.

“There are people out here who like to get their news hard copy,” said Kirsten Bowe, a former sports editor. “It’s nice to get news out every day.”

The paper has a current circulation of 18,500 and is available free of charge.

The newspaper is a lab paper, meaning it is part of the communications curriculum. Every year, approximately 200 students work on the paper, including print journalism and public relations students reporting for news writing classes.

The first campus paper at BYU was the Student, which was created in 1881 and lasted five months. The White and Blue was created in 1897 and went through several name changes until it settled with Universe in 1948. Seven years later, it began to be published daily Monday through Friday, and the paper added Daily to its name.

"We have decades of heritage with the Daily Universe," Walton said. "The Universe is part of our past and it is part of our future. We're making this change to train better journalists and to enable us to get information to our readers more quickly in the way that they want it delivered."

Contributing: Ladd Brubaker

E-mail: hschwarz@desnews.com

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