SAVANNAH, GA — After beginning in 1995 as a weekly student-run print publication at the Savannah College of Art and Design, District relaunched as an online-only in 2008, becoming part of the early wave of student publications to scrap their print product.
“We wanted to go digital because we felt like that was where the industry was headed, and all of our students generally were already more online than they were picking up print,” says Allison Bennett Dyche, the assistant director of student media and adviser for District.
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While primarily devoted to covering campus news and events, the site also covers the city of Savannah, particularly local government meetings, elections, and crime. 15 students are paid a monthly stipend for their work on District, while another 15 to 20 serve as unpaid contributors. Going digital has been a perfect format for SCAD’s art and design focus, giving students the ability to produce audio, photo essays, and videos on a regular basis. The site features a slick, highly visual design.
“Since we’re an art and design university we have majors like film and sound design and animation. Those are all things that you can’t put in print very well, so we take advantage of that on our website,” Dyche says.
Social media is a big part of District’s content strategy, and the site uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Storify to build a larger web presence.
“More outreach through social media outlets strengthens our relationship with our readers as well as the content and how people are driven to it,” says Kenneth Rosen, a SCAD student and District editor in chief. [Editor’s note: While still a student at SCAD, Rosen has been succeeded as editor in chief since speaking with CJR. The new EIC is Shannon Craig.]
Four years after District made the leap to digital, Rosen says he’s surprised that many student publications are still rooted in print, saying that they are not taking advantage of the opportunities the web offers.
“When we go to conventions we run into the discussion of, you know, they all want to keep their print product,” he says. “We’re so far beyond that argument. It’s a little frustrating for us to not see the industry moving forward as quickly as we’re trying to.”