What Starts in the Basement

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Texas Student Media's new journalism advisor, back in the day (center), being promoted to news editor in true DT style.
Texas Student Media's new journalism advisor, back in the day (center), being promoted to news editor in true DT style.

As the new school year begins, I believe UT students have a great opportunity to reinvent The Daily Texan. So after a decade at The New York Times, a book and a stint at News Corp’s iPad experiment, I’ve returned to the Texan (where I worked as a reporter, news editor and managing editor in the early 1990s) to serve as the journalism advisor. My assignment is to help guide The Texan, KVRX and TSTV into the digital future with our traditional values, credibility and integrity, intact.

Here’s why I’m excited about the opportunity: We have a talented staff, led by Laura Wright and Shabab Siddiqui, who are brimming with innovative ideas, deeply thoughtful about the publication’s relevance in the digital age and more than capable of setting the Internet on fire. We have a TV station and a radio station under the same roof, where the student leaders, Ian Reese and Joe Aragon, have embraced the value of new collaboration. We have a crackerjack digital director, Curt Yowell, who has already set the groundwork for putting our website into student hands with professional support. And we have a campus brimming with tens of thousands of bright young minds.

And here’s what we’re doing: starting a mobile-friendly overhaul of our web design and content management systems, with a careful eye toward documentation and continuity. We’re performing a targeted search, with the gracious help of computer sciences Chairman Dr. Bruce Porter and new media lecturer Robert Quigley, for new kinds of talent. We’re working directly with the advertising staff to cultivate both old and new revenue sources as we migrate online. We’re collaborating across platforms and entities to engage readers with innovative multimedia journalism. We’re working on a data journalism project that could prove to be a game-changer. And, of course, we’re continuing to put out one of the best student newspapers in the country.

At points along the way, we’ll need specific help from our alumni. I’ve already had a good chat about this with Griff Singer, head of the newly formed alumni group's mentoring committee. For now, we need your support. Since our managing editor has banned the word “blog” from the newsroom (it’s antiquated and implies a lower journalistic bar, he argues), I’ll use this “Online Exclusive Content” to keep the Texan’s far-flung supporters apprised of the twists and turns. I’ll flag new posts on Twitter @BrickMichael, and I’ll be glad to hear your suggestions via brick@austin.utexas.edu.

I don’t expect our students to solve the secular problems of the media industry here at Texas Student Media. But I firmly believe that they can bring the organization up to modern standards, positioning the Texan to adapt and thrive as the solutions begin to emerge. I’m here to make sure they have a guiding hand, an experienced perspective and the freedom to make some educational mistakes along the way.

Hook ‘em,

Michael Brick