As newspapers wrestle with questions about how much of their content to put online for free, Christian college newspapers are asking another question: Should they be online at all?
"You can't put the ketchup back in the bottle with the Internet," said Terry Mattingly, director of the Washington Journalism Center, a program run by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). "Freedom of the press belongs to the people who own one. For ten dollars a month, or for free, students can have their own forum."
Moving student papers online was high on the agenda at the National College Media Convention this October in Austin, Texas. Michael Ray Smith, a Campbell University professor who led a session on going digital, said, "It's definitely on the radar, and Christian schools are working furiously, trying to figure out the tension."
Students are already taking big issues to the Web. At Calvin College in September, Chimes posted a story online about a controversial board memo banning faculty from gay advocacy. Westmont College's Horizon liveblogged during last November's campus fire that destroyed 20 percent of its buildings. And Cedarville University placed Cedars' website behind a password-protected firewall after campus controversy in 2008. (The website is now publicly accessible.)
Mattingly urges his students to publish online so they can practice immediate reporting.
"[Online reporting] has a much closer relationship to the world of journalism at the level of wire services and the Web than does a student paper that comes out every two weeks," he said. "And it doesn't cost you a red cent."
But this makes administrators nervous, especially at colleges that don't have strong journalism programs, Mattingly said. "It's one ...1
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