A year later: An inside look at the digital newsroom of Daily Emerald

The student newspaper at University of Oregon, the Daily Emerald, ended its 92-year, Monday-to-Friday operation in June 2012, and switched to a digital operation. As a student newspaper adviser myself, I am more interested in the changes this digital switch brought to the day-to-day operations. Recently, I contacted the publisher and the editor in chief of the Emerald, and wanted to share with my readers what I learned about their new, digital newsroom operations.

A brief background: Daily Emerald and its digital switch

Daily Emerald (now Emerald Media Group) decided to cut its five-day publication schedule to a two-day schedule (Monday and Thursday), and to expand digital (web/mobile) content offerings. What’s “shocking” or noteworthy about their switch is that the paper was not losing money; actually, Ryan Frank, publisher of the paper, said in an article that “this (2012) is our best financial year since 2000, and we have no debt and a reasonable reserve fund.” And here is what they planned to do:

Print: Two weekly print editions — Emerald Monday and Emerald Weekend — modeled after alternative weeklies, such as Willamette Week in Portland and The Stranger in Seattle.

Web and mobile: Real-time news, community engagement, photo galleries and video on the web, mobile and social media. New web and mobile apps that make students’ lives richer and more entertaining.

Events: A promotions and events division — Emerald Presents — to sponsor political debates, football watch parties, and student music festivals.

Advertising and marketing: A full suite of marketing services that combines print, web, mobile, social media and street team services.

Q & A with Emerald publisher Ryan Frank: Changes to newsroom operations

Question: Have there been any position changes before and after the digital switch?
What “legacy” positions were eliminated or consolidated? What new positions
are created?

Ryan Frank: Yes, lots of positions changes. We no longer have students doing ad
production/design. That’s now done by our professional staff. In the
newsroom, it was more about changing jobs rather than adding or taking away
a bunch. We have a newsroom developer. The newsroom chose to split into two
parts: Print and online. That created a structure where the print team is
accountable for the quality of the print product. The online team is
accountable for the online product.

We also created a new full-time professional position for a developer on
the business side, and a student marketing team of about 10.

Question: What is the change in the day-to-day workflow before/after? Is it
similar to what TCU staff do: produce contents first then decide how to
best push the contents? How will you rank order the focus you put on the three
platforms (print, web, mobile)? What else about a digital workflow that you
think is noteworthy to mention?

Ryan Frank: Online and print are really two separate products for us. News primarily
goes on the website and is distributed through social media. We treat the
print product (2x per week) as more of a news magazine. We say that the
“what happened” goes on online and “how and why” explanations go in print.
Online is about news. Print is about context and meaning.

Question: How about staff training? Does the (student?) staff need to be
re-trained? What skills do you now expect of student staff? How do you
train new staffers? What about new equipments/hardware for the digital

Ryan Frank: Training is a huge piece that we need to improve. We’re still wrestling
with how to do training right. We’ve done a lot of learning on the fly this
year. As far as equipment, our board invested $50,000 in updating our
office and equipment. That included white boards everywhere, a couch, TVs,
video equipment, laptops, iPads, etc. We needed to give students the tools
to do the digital first work.

Conversation with Emerald editor in chief: Changes to newsroom structure

Editor in Chief Andy Rossback laid out in May 2012 the planned organizational structure of the newly formed Emerald Media Group:


In a recent Twitter conversation with me, Andy said the current structure is as planned. However, if he could redo, he would add assistant editors and reporters, and disperse editing work to allow more focus and one-on-one coaching. He would also like to create informal/small project teams to work on “big stuff.”

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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