UNB News
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Student paper publishes first print edition in 10 years

Author: Alex Graham

Posted on Dec 21, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John

The Baron staff enjoy a read of the new print edition. Back row, left to right: Taylor Fennelly, Joseph Albert, Matthew Heans and Aalia Dehinbo. Front row, left to right: Kylie Mackenzie, Cameron Kennie, Emily Wheaton and Abigail Legacy.

The Baron wants the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Saint John campus to give print a chance.

The online student newspaper has embraced a bygone era with the return of the printed paper for a special end-of-semester edition.

“They were super intrigued,” said The Baron’s Editor in Chief, Emily Wheaton, of student interest in the physical newspaper.

Students and faculty alike nabbed the 200 hot-off-the-presses copies of The Baron. For some, it was a first-in-a-lifetime experience.

“A lot of students, they’re discovering how newspapers work,” she explained. “They would feel it and smell it, and I heard them say, ‘It actually feels like a newspaper’.”

“Faculty was hopping on it too,” Wheaton said of the hard copy December edition available at The Baron’s office at the Student Centre, as well as at the Hans W. Klohn Commons.

The decision to switch entirely to a digital format in September of 2013 lost an audience of readers.

“I would be in class and mention that I’m the Editor-in-Chief of The Baron, and my profs would say, ‘Oh, is that still active? I haven’t seen a free copy on campus for so long’.”

A number of different factors played into Wheaton’s decision to give a print run a try.

“When I took the position two years ago, I was wondering why we didn’t print anymore,” she said. “We have some old archives, and I was looking them over, thinking that it would be cool to pick up a physical newspaper.”

She knew the cost of print runs was a factor, but she couldn’t help but wonder if there were intangible benefits to at least making a small run of hard copies available for people to pick up and read.

“One of my mandates that I set for myself when I became Editor-in-Chief, was to prove to students why they give us student fees… The Baron is funded by students. We’re only students that run it, and we make content for students. So, I wanted to bring back our presence on campus, post-pandemic.”

Surprisingly, another influence on the paper’s decision to embrace the old ways was due to the fallout of federal policy aimed at helping online journalism.

Over the spring, the federal government passed Bill C-18. The bill, also known as the Online News Act, requires online services that run Canadian news content to pay into a collective fund to compensate media businesses for the content they generate.

Google recently agreed to pay up to $100 million to the fund for the right to carry Canadian media content. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, decided to stop carrying Canadian news content rather than pay into the fund.

“A lot of people don’t realize that also affected student news,” Wheaton said. “We can’t publish anything on Meta platforms.”

Without those channels, The Baron’s reach was significantly curtailed.

“People weren’t necessarily typing our website into their browser every day,” Wheaton said. Instead, a lot of traffic to articles was generated from social media, and Facebook was one of the main conduits.

“Obviously, we can’t do that anymore, so it was kind of a push for me [to do a print run].”

With the immediate success of the trial, The Baron has plans to distribute hard copy issues in 2024.

“Hopefully, we can get out another one towards the end of the term in the winter, so right now, it’ll most likely be a one per-semester type of deal,” Wheaton said, adding that they’re talking about printing monthly in the 2024/25 school year.

“The support has been fantastic...hopefully the students and faculty and members of the community continue to love it.”