This August, I had the great pleasure to attend the Management Seminar for College News Editors at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. I was one of several dozen college newspaper editors there to learn from journalism and media professionals but also to learn from each other.

A major theme throughout the conference was the industry-wide transition to a nebulous concept known as “digital first” media. Judging by the conference speakers and conversations with my colleagues, what that means precisely is still very much up for grabs.

Social media integration, campus relations, and website redesigns were perennial topics for conversation and discussion. We traded tips and tricks amongst ourselves and took notes on best practices from panelists. I personally left the conference with several pages of notes and story ideas.

Michael Drash, left, at the Management Seminar for College News Editors. (Credit: UGAGrady)
Michael Drash, left, at the Management Seminar for College News Editors. (Credit: UGAGrady)

But beyond that, I realized how very typical the struggles of The Cavalier Daily are. I gave a presentation during the annual “Best in Show” panel and, instead of presenting our best journalistic piece, I was asked to present on our own digital transition as we were the most recent publication at the conference to publicly reinvent ourselves along those lines. The response was overwhelming and immediate. My peers’ comments and questions spoke directly to the same concerns we are feeling here in Charlottesville and gave me encouragement that we definitely did something right and are moving in a positive direction.

As The Cavalier Daily, like most other legacy print publications, struggles to define and achieve a digital first newsroom, little decisions and process changes feel like they are setting the tone for the future and, in some ways, we certainly are defining our attitudes and adapting our philosophies. At the same time though, we and every other publication are fumbling in the dark, attempting to adjust our tangible platforms to new media landscapes, and we’re not always making the best decision on the first try.

In that context, it is all the more important that we, as a paper, maintain connections to our fellow student media organizations so that, as we fumble in the dark together, we can learn from each other’s experiences and hopefully get more right on the first try than not and I would like to thank the Cavalier Daily Alumni Association for allowing me to help The Cavalier Daily be a part of that collegiate network.

 Michael Drash is a second-year College student and Focus editor of The Cavalier Daily.

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