When the staff of the Stoutonia, University of Wisconsin-Stout’s student news source, found themselves unable to go to on campus and produce a physical publication because of COVID-19, they used a bit of ingenuity to make sure a digital one was available for students .
Bryce Parr, the editor-in-chief who is graduating on Saturday, May 9, with a degree in professional communication and emerging media, had staff members post news stories online to share with students while they were unable to be on campus.
However, the staff wanted to publish a full issue that would contain feature stories, opinion pieces and student voices. They published a digital issue here. The pdf file contains stories on flattening the curve of the coronavirus and top movies to binge on while in isolation, as well as news and sports stories.
“Although our campus is spread far and wide, your voices are heard on the subjects that matter to you,” the site notes.
Parr, of Mondovi, said he first found out about the potential for the university to have to switch to alternative learning methods without face-to-face classes while attending a Stout Student Association meeting. When it happened in March, he knew it was going to be difficult to publish the Stoutonia. “Everything slowed down,” he said. “We just tried to do our best.”
For him it was hard losing the energy that comes with the staff meeting, throwing out ideas and working together but the staff was able to finish the Stoutonia by meeting virtually. Parr did the editing and posting of stories from his apartment in Menomonie, as well as writing for the publication.
Rose Barker, a senior majoring in studio art, who is the digital imaging editor for the Stoutonia this school year and is running to be editor-in-chief next school year, said it was difficult not having weekly in-person meetings to talk about ideas and collaborate on stories. “After the learning curve, we all pulled through and got out some truly awesome content,” Barker said. “Our entire staff was amazing about it.”
Faculty adviser Kate Edenborg said the staff had budgeted for a spring print issue. However, they realized the issue could not be printed on campus and there would be difficulty distributing it to students.
Edenborg said she was proud of Parr’s work as the editor-in-chief. “I am very glad that Bryce was at the helm when the Stoutonia was faced with trying to keep producing content even though staff was no longer on campus and in many cases not even in town,” she said. “We gave staff the option to step down from their roles knowing that the transition to online learning was going to be a challenge for everyone. That said, all of the editorial board came back and most of the general staff. Bryce set up new systems and processes and our editors and writers continued to produce content online.”
This school year brought other changes to the Stoutonia too. Graphic communications co-op students helped redesign the Stoutonia and printed last semester’s edition. Previously, the news publication was published by an off-campus printing company.
“The graphic communications students were also planning to help redesign the newsstands around campus where the publication was available, and help with marketing the Stoutonia,” Parr said, noting he hopes future staff will continue with those plans.
“Working with the GCOM students we had more freedom to explore and do what we wanted to do with the Stoutonia,” Parr said.
Parr said having student-run media is important because it allows students to get their news from their peers rather than other sources and to share their opinions with each other.
The Stoutonia website also started featuring some videos and enhanced digital content which is something Parr hopes will continue as well. “I think it is really what the Stoutonia needs to do is to have a wide array of news instead of just written news,” Parr said. “It’s what the audience is looking for. It’s what students relate to more.”
Barker also wants to see the video offerings expand at the Stoutonia. “We have some great equipment now and continue to grow our social media presence,” Barker said. “We have such strong writers and creators that I want their good work to be able to go out to a wider group. I think peer-sourced news for campus is incredibly important and perhaps people would be able to connect a bit easier with it if we strengthened that side of things.”
UW-Stout student Rose Barker with a portrait of Merle M. Price, a longtime dean of students.