Herald drops to once weekly print edition, greater digital focus

Andrew Henderson is the editor-in-chief of the College Heights Herald for the 2017-2018 academic year. 

On Sept. 18, 1969 there was a small brief that appeared in the College Heights Herald in the lower right hand corner headlined “More Heralds planned.”

For the first time in the Herald’s 45-year history the paper would be published twice a week.

“This is a major step forward for both the campus and the Herald,” Herald editor-in-chief Bruce Tucker said at the time. Noting how two papers a week “should serve to stimulate interest in important events, provide more up-to-date information and provide the kind of coverage that a campus of this size should have.”

Forty-nine years later this will be changing.

Beginning Jan. 23, the College Heights Herald will make one of the most significant transitions in its 93-year history. The Herald will publish its print edition weekly, with significantly expanded digital coverage every day on WKUHerald.com.

The best path forward for the Herald is to decrease our print production to once a week and increase our coverage online. There are layers to this decision, so allow me to outline them.

WKU cut our reserve fund in half, meaning the $101,000 we had in our reserves last June 30 now stands at $50,000. Because we have no assurances that our remaining reserve will be protected, that fund could be tapped again to cover WKU’s ongoing budget deficit.

While this move was detrimental to the Herald, it is not the sole cause of this change.

Advertising in the print edition of the Herald generates the largest share of our revenue, but that advertising was down last fall semester compared to a year earlier.

The fact is, if our reserve fund had remained intact, we likely would have taken the spring semester to plan these changes, and then implemented them next fall. The loss of our cushion, however, meant it could risk long-term damage to the Herald, financially and from a quality perspective. 

Even if the university hadn’t raided our reserve funds, moving to once a week in print would have inevitably happened; of course, the loss of our funds certainly didn’t help. The market is changing and we’re not able to dependably rely on advertising revenues to continue funding our current model of twice-a-week print publication in this climate.

The times are changing and so must we.

The Herald is going to be evolving this semester, and that can be a bit scary or I know it is for me. But I know the Herald at its core will allow for these changes to flourish, which is why, despite the change, I’m not worried at all. I know that at the core of the Herald are the students, the experience gained, the confidence built, the skills refined, the relationships made and the stories told. No matter what form the Herald takes, that core won’t change. 

The Herald remains the best source of news and information about the WKU community and is tightly woven into the fabric of WKU. There is no better or more comprehensive source for independent coverage of the university and its community than the Herald, which has covered WKU since Jan. 29, 1925.

We believe our plan – faster news on the web, with unique and enterprising content in print – is a combination for success. We intend to address the WKU community’s expectation of instant access to news and information by dedicating more of our resources to digital work. And we hope to preserve the deeper coverage, excellent storytelling and exceptional photography in a weekly print edition.

We’re using one of the best collegiate publications in the nation – one that has won the Pacemaker Award, the nation’s top honor for a student-run publication, 16 times – as the foundation of excellence to build a vibrant future.

This is a sad, yet exciting time. Sad because decades of tradition is going to change, but exciting because it’s a blank slate in a sense and there’s so much room to try new things. Things always feel sad when they end but then everything begins anew and that’s always happy.

Despite the circumstances, I’m choosing to be happy.

What Bruce Tucker said 49 years ago still rings true for the Herald today. WKU needs dedicated, ongoing, coverage that stimulates interest in important events, provides up-to-date information and serves the needs of the community. Twice-a-week in print or online it doesn’t matter, the end result will be the same kind of phenomenal journalism the Herald has always provided.

The Herald isn’t going anywhere: We’re going to continue to have fun, laugh hard, work harder, eat more popcorn, do our best and then go beyond that, be kind and keep telling the important stories this community has to share.