Changing the Cynic for a changing world
September 6, 2022
The Vermont Cynic has called the University of Vermont home for nearly 140 years. Since its inception in 1883, our student-run newspaper has covered countless aspects of UVM’s history. From wars to pandemics to protests to sports games, the Cynic has truly seen it all.
In the past few decades, and even in the past few years, our world has seen a dramatic shift in how people consume media. With the advent of the internet came the rise of online news, and in turn, the gradual decline of print journalism.
While many of the country’s largest news media organizations still print daily editions, lots of the smaller and more local publications have found success transitioning to online-only formats. Vermont’s largest newsroom, VTDigger, is and has always been an online-only publication.
Even the news outlets that still print on paper reach a vast majority of their subscribers online. As of last November, 7.6 million of the New York Times’s nearly 8.4 million total subscriptions were digital, according to a Nov. 3 2021 New York Times article.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 greatly accelerated this shift towards digitization. Many newsrooms drastically reduced their outputs during the pandemic. Many even shut their doors for good.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when all UVM operations switched to remote, the Cynic stopped printing physical issues. We resumed print operations during part of the fall semester of 2020, only to stop printing again for financial reasons and due to a lack of print readership.
This past year, our editors and staff put much work into reviving the medium—the Cynic resumed printing once again during the spring semester of 2022 and remained in print throughout that semester.
Initially, our current Cynic leadership team had hoped to continue to provide print and had informed readers of these intentions.
However, as we have resumed operations this fall, our team has had to make adjustments, due to changing circumstances on our staff and changing circumstances in the world around us.
As nostalgic and wonderful as it is to see our work in print, it is not the future of media.
When the Cynic brought back printing—albeit in fits and starts—in the recent years following the pandemic’s onset, we noticed that our readers’ habits stayed largely the same as they had been when the pandemic was at its worst.
Issues were not flying off the shelves this past spring. On the contrary, armfuls of copies of our paper wound up in the recycling bin each week, in spite of our efforts to limit such waste by printing the minimum quantity the vendor allowed.
At the time we are writing this, several copies of our last issue of this past spring semester still sit untouched, collecting dust on the lesser-utilized newsstands around campus. In light of all this, the Cynic is once again ceasing print operations indefinitely.
Thankfully, we reach much higher levels of readership online.
Our website analytics indicate that we consistently have at least twice as many page views online compared to the number of paper copies we used to print and circulate. At the time of our best performance last year, our website received 16 times more webpage views than the total number of physical copies we would have printed—many of which were not even picked up.
We do not want a dying medium to be what drives us to churn out content. We do not want to “fill the pages” at the expense of the mental health of our staff. We do not want to see our hard work accumulating in the depths of campus waste receptacles.
The Cynic still intends to provide diligent and comprehensive reporting on topics of importance to the UVM community, but we believe it is in the best interest of everyone involved that our publication remains committed to quality over quantity.
In lieu of printing, our goal is to reallocate resources towards expanding our reach through enhanced utilization of social media.
In the recent past, we posted only a few times weekly on Instagram to promote a select number of stories. Looking to the future, we aim to increase our engagement by posting more content to Instagram and revitalizing some dormant and inactive platforms, such as our Twitter account.
Our former layout editor is transitioning into the role of digital media editor and she has already outlined numerous ideas and goals for how she would like to re-envision her section and how she hopes to boost the Cynic’s online presence throughout the year.
The decision to do away with print was not made lightly. There are innumerable opportunities for growth online, and we are excited to carry on the spirit of the Cynic’s journalistic tradition whilst keeping up with the times and meeting readers where they’re at.
More on this to come. In the meantime, we hope to see you frequenting our website—and perhaps we’ll also see you on Instagram.
Ella Ruehsen, Editor-in-Chief
Eric Scharf, Managing Editor