Dramatic changes come with digital-first strategy of TCU student media

The organizational chart of student media at Texas Christian University shows dramatic changes in both organizational structure and workflow after they initiated the digital-first strategy in fall 2012. What they did was essentially starting a new organization, and in this process, legacy platforms (newspaper/magazine/broadcast) are no longer the focus.

A student media adviser myself, I contacted TCU student media adviser Aaron Chimbel and asked about their experiences with a digital-first operation. Aaron is kind enough to answer my questions and even drew an organizational chart in explaining their digital-first operation. I wanted to share with my readers what I learned about their innovative work.

Before the digital switch: Independent operation of several platforms

TCU student media include a newspaper, a cable newscast, a website, a magazine, and an FM radio station. Here’s a detailed description of each student media (copied from tcu360.com):

  • The TCU Daily Skiff, established in 1902, is a newspaper designed specifically for the TCU community. The Daily Skiff is published Tuesday through Friday during the fall and spring semesters. Newsstands are located all over campus and in off-campus businesses surrounding TCU.
  • TCU 360 is the place to find everything TCU online. For campus news 24/7, go to tcu360.com. Content from the Daily Skiff, News Now, KTCU and Image magazine are all found here.
  • TCU News Now, the student-produced newscast from the Schieffer School of Journalism was established in 2004. Newscasts run continuously on TCU Cable Channel 24.
  • Image magazine, which was founded in 1973, features Horned Frog sports, Fort Worth hot spots and much more.
  • KTCU-FM is a TCU student operated radio station. The station broadcasts throughout the TCU area on 88.7 FM. KTCU is run independently through another department on campus and journalism students provide a daily news update for this station.

Prior to the digital switch, all of the platforms were separate, independent operations. Each one had its own team of reporters and editors and all operated independently, except for the website, which posted content from all of student media. Text versions of TV stories ran in the paper. 

After the digital switch: One centralized operation

The new TCU student media is a completely new organization, a converged multimedia news operation known as TCU360. Digital contents are produced first and then pushed through appropriate platforms – usually web/mobile first and broadcast/paper later. In an article for USA Today, a TCU360 editor describes the new workflow as follows:

As “one big news team,” all 54 student reporters work for TCU360 regardless of their story’s medium. Content is published on the website and social media throughout the day, seven days a week. The Daily Skiff, still published Tuesday through Friday, acts as an aggregator of the week’s best content.

The several platforms were consolidated into one organization, with an Executive Editor overseeing all the operations. There are four other top editors, as seen in the organizational chart below. Under two of the editors, reporters work in teams — each headed by one seasoned reporter — that cover specific topics ranging from public safety to student organizations.


What has been hurt in this new operation is legacy media – broadcast and newspaper are no longer the focus. In an email to me, Aaron Chimbel, TCU student media adviser, said that this structure has helped immensely with the news gathering operation and putting the focus on gathering news for online and mobile, and it’s easy for students to get complacent with the rolling deadlines vs. the hard deadlines for print/broadcast.

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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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