Columbia Missourian staff photographer Erin Hendry (CQ), a senior at the University of Missouri, edits her morning photo shoot of MU’s International Day festivities during her shift on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. All MU photojournalism majors are required to not only take the Columbia Missourian reporting class, but also work as a staff photographer for the newspaper.
The Columbia Missourian is unique among the newspapers chosen for the WNN Report. The Missourian is a non-profit corporation -- embedded within a teaching institution -- that produces a commercial daily newspaper. The Columbia Missourian is a “web-first” news operation with an ambitious website — Missourian.com — and a unique five day-a-week -- Tuesday-Friday & Sunday -- morning print edition, designed to augment and give depth to, but not duplicate, the website.
The mission statement the newspaper shares with University of Missouri journalism students explains its goals:
We are first and foremost a community newspaper for the people of Columbia and mid-Missouri. We serve them. Second, we are a newspaper that experiments with best practices for our industry. We try things, and pass along whatever we learn — success or failure. Third, we are a teaching laboratory for the industry’s next generation of reporters and editors, publishers and photojournalists, producers, and designers.
As U.S. newspapers search for the best model to produce quality journalism and stay economically afloat, the idea of non-profit news organizations is one of the models being explored. Also see:
- The New Yorker, Think Tank/Non-Profit Newspapers
- The Economics of non-profit newspapers
- A Non-Profit Panacea for Newspapers?
- Non-profit journalism on the rise
The Columbia Missourian Backgrounder link on this site gives a snapshot of the Missourian’s revenue picture.
An example of innovation on the Missourian.com website is software for members of the community to submit their own stories — “Look for stories from citizens like you on page 2A of the Missourian”: <http://mymissourian.com/>
The newspaper/website has a large reporting staff for a community of its size; usually more than 100 fresh student reporters staff the news-side each term. But the downside for newspaper management is that most of them are hitting the streets for the first time, so each term has a “shake-down” period as skills get “ramped-up” for the each succeeding edition.
Recently, traditional Missourian newspaper “beats” have been replaced by a “neighborhood” approach. Teams of reporters blanket assigned neighborhoods and cover news of local concern. The Missourian believes that voices and communities that may have been ignored now have a presence in the website/newspaper. Editors are also re-thinking the “everyone covers both online and print” approach. They plan to experiment with selecting a group of reporters who excel in in-depth reporting who will write and edit just for print.
The next major innovation for the Missourian is a completely new web software platform/content management system being developed with JUnit (JUnit is a unit testing framework for the Java programming language).
The Missourian hopes this software will support a major step forward for delivering digital news content to many platforms -- stationary and mobile. The new software is targeted to be introduced by the Missourian in January 2011, and eventually marketed to other newspapers. You can follow its development at http://transition.columbiamissourian.com/.
The Missourian’s managing editor, Jeanne Abbott, describes the unique laboratory atmosphere of the Missourian newsroom. Director of digital development, Rob Weir, who grew up in a Missouri community newspaper family, talks about the mix of journalism and web-savvy skills needed to manage a competitive newspaper’s digital enterprises. And, the former managing editor of the Missourian, George Kennedy, tells the story of Walter Williams -- the colorful Missouri newspaperman who started the School of Journalism and The Columbia Missourian in 1908.
-- Sara Brown and Paul Steinle