By Olivia Bousquet
After printing hand-held newspapers for the past 53 years, Cardinal Points will become a solely digital news source starting in fall 2022. SUNY Plattsburgh students, faculty, staff and alumni will continue receiving the weekly edition through a digital medium.
“We will miss holding the physical copies, but we will be joining many papers that have successfully made the transition into the digital age,” Alana Penny, editor in chief of Cardinal Points, said. “Cardinal Points will be able to do many exciting new things with the digital format, like publishing breaking news stories.”
The biggest reason the paper has decided to transition to an online format is financial circumstances. While Cardinal Points receives roughly $18,000 from the Student Association every year through a block subscription, the paper used to make the majority of its money through advertising revenue. The revenue would help pay for basic operations including circulation expenses, technology and insurance.
From 2009-10 to 2020-21 tax years, there has been a 96% drop in advertising revenue. In the 2008-09 fiscal tax year, Cardinal Points made more than $40,000 in advertising sales. Again in the 2015-16 fiscal tax year, the paper made more $40,000 in advertising. Throughout the years, there had been some high advertising sales while other years provided less, such as 2016-17 tax year with roughly $15,000. These sales are made by SUNY Plattsburgh students in the advertising program.
However, the past fiscal tax year brought in no money from advertising.
“But that’s the situation that Cardinal Points was in — it was too expensive to print,” Cardinal Points adviser Shawn Murphy said. “There was not enough income coming in from advertising revenue, and the block subscription had gone stagnant, actually gone down over time. And so it was, this should have been done years ago, and I was hopeful.”
Cardinal Points yearly total estimate of incoming revenue is $24,750. However, the total estimated operating expenses are more than $42,000 with printing being the largest expense.
Every Friday, stories from the printed paper are uploaded to the Cardinal Points website and a newsletter would be sent to online subscribers. A PDF flipbook of the printed edition is also uploaded to the platform Issuu, which can be accessed from the Cardinal Points website.
All of this will remain the same. A new issue will come out every Friday with 11 issues in the fall semester and 12 in the spring semester. The only difference is that readers won’t have a traditional paper to hold.
Murphy said newspapers across the country are transitioning to a digital format. Even the New York Times used to be delivered to the college, but can only be accessed online now.
“The students, who all have smartphones and laptops, this now means CP will be delivered to them,” Murphy said. “They no longer will need to go to campus and hunt for a paper issue on a rack. Instead, CP’s newsletter and social media will alert them to new issues and breaking news.”
Cardinal Points is following the trend of other papers and finding a better way to reach the student body. According to a 2021 survey from the Pew Research Center, only 3% of U.S. adults ages 18-29 preferred to get their news from a print source. Yet, 77% of this age bracket said they preferred to get their news digitally.
In a 2022 Poynter article by Taylor Blatchford, she addressed these stats by writing, “this means if you’re focusing your time and energy on your print publication, you’re ignoring the preferences of nearly all of your student audience.”
How the SUNY Plattsburgh campus will receive the e-edition every Friday is still being figured out, but will be resolved before the first issue in the fall.
While the paper’s origin dates back to 1969, Cardinal Points’ separated from the SA as an independent organization in 1997, the year Shawn Murphy became the adviser. Prior to 1997, Cardinal Points was considered a club through the SA. This meant any pencils, papers or new computers Cardinal Points needed had to be requested and all revenue sales made in advertising went back to the SA.
The first semester Murphy worked for the paper, a fire occurred at McDonough Hall. A student had been smoking in his room and caused roughly $150,000 in damages. Cardinal Points covered the story and interviewed the student for the upcoming issue.
“That’s when the SA tried to censor the paper by saying, ‘Look if you run the story with the student’s name in it,’ — which the paper planned to do — ‘Then we will suspend your funding,’” Murphy said.
The Press Republican offered to print that issue for free as a public service. From that moment, the paper took the opportunity to negotiate and became incorporated.
Farewell to print
Penny informed journalism alumni May 9 in “The Official SUNY Plattsburgh Journalism Alumni Group” on Facebook that the paper was transitioning to a digital platform. With a majority of comments expressing their sadness for the change, they understood.
“Another knife in my heart as a lover of print…but as an editor that made tons of changes myself and feared whether they were right decisions, I applaud you all for keeping with the times and being true to the trade,” Jennifer Coffey Mischinelli commented.
Penny has been working for the paper since her freshman year in fall 2018. She said it was when she made friends with students in the major through the paper.
“You can’t get that type of practical experience from your classes,” Penny said. “You could study journalism for 5,000 years, but you won’t necessarily understand the process of writing, reporting, deadlines, editing and laying it out on pages and getting into the printer on time.”
She also said laying out pages, the process of creating the paper, is essential for the journalism field. Editors lay out the pages every week, and this process will continue for the e-edition. While papers will be digital, editors and staff writers will continue using the same process of creating the paper every week.
SUNY Plattsburgh campus can expect breaking news and more content from Cardinal Points Online next semester.