The Collegian AIG sponsored two Zoom Roundtables for Collegian staff members, including one with Erica Beshears Perel, the former student newspaper general manager who turned around The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The other Zoom Roundtable star was Collegian alum Sara Cudemo, who was a Collegian business manager and is now product manager at FedEx Dataworks.
Perel, who now serves as director of the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, graduated from UNC in 1998 and worked for the Charlotte Observer a decade before returning to UNC to serve as news advisor and later general manager for The Daily Tar Heel.
When she arrived in 2008 during the Great Recession, the student newspaper, which does not receive financial support or student fees from the university, was in financial trouble, as The Collegian is now after Penn State announced it will stop subsidizing the outlet.
Perel said what helped save The Daily Tar Heel was the news and business sides stopped working in silos and began collaborating. And, she said, the newspaper diversified its revenue streams. In 2018, it depended nearly entirely on advertising, which was rapidly diminishing. By 2021, when she left, she said it had four to five good revenue streams, with none being dominant.
She told the students that during this difficult time for the news industry across the country, outlets are struggling to find their way. She advised the students to determine the mission and values of The Daily Collegian and determine what impact they want the medium to have. Then, she urged the students to pursue tools and ideas that will enable student leaders to adhere to their mission and values while improving the outlet’s impact. To view the roundtable, click here.
Cudemo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Penn State from 2012 to 2016, also worked at The Collegian during a period of transition, when the organization was considering scaling back what was then a daily print product and turning more of its attention to online media.
“It was the beginning of a new landscape,” she said.
Cudemo said that the best way for the Collegian to ensure it has a dedicated audience in the future is to set itself apart and make sure that it is offering its audience something unique. To view the roundtable click here.