I talk a lot here about the need to experiment, to take risks, try stuff, throw it up against the wall, see what sticks. That kind of no-holds-barred experimentation is the only way to find the future models for reporting and delivering the news.
I just had a new thought on this idea: Why aren't college newspapers doing this very thing?
Wouldn't college newspapers be the perfect place to try some of this experimentation? Why insist on their continuing to publish daily, physical newspapers? Why not just say to them: Go online, play around, and tell us what you learn about attracting and retaining readers?
Most college papers do, of course, have an online presence. But surf around them, and it's hard to find something groundbreaking.
There could be something going on that I'm not aware of. But if there isn't, I'd love to see a massive, coordinated project along the lines of the 100-newspaper project I described before: Gather at least 100 college newspapers and get each one (or teams of several) to pursue a project aimed toward attracting and attaining readers. And then share the results with each other--and the world.
There are a bunch of foundation-funded programs out supporting various "adult-run" experiments. But if you're going to make a bet, I think it would be hard to find a more sure thing than letting the next generation -- the tech-savvy, fearless, not-stuck-inside-the-box-of-the-old-canon generation -- go wild. Surely, they would find some of the answers.
Photo courtesy of Stinkie Pinkie. Creative Commons license.