Rebranding an 80-year-old collegiate newspaper

Facebook cover
When I took over as Editor-in-Chief of The Suffolk Journal, it was in the worst shape it had been in for years. For a paper that was founded in 1936, one would think that the 80th anniversary would be a breeze. Wrong. I could easily list the issues that we had: practically no staff, there was no website, few editors willing to put in the work, the paper had a long line of debt that spanned over the past few years due to the lack of business managers or sale of advertisements, pick-up rates were at an all-time low and the physical look of the paper was mediocre at best. In short, The Journal had suffered for too long. The worst part was that we were rearing into the exciting part of the 2016 election and things were getting exciting. How would we report the news of one of the most turbulent times of our history if our newspaper lacked a digital presence?
It was June and I was appointed Editor-in-Chief for a month. The clock was ticking and the fall semester was going to be here before I knew it. Other than recruiting a sustainable staff, I needed to make it look like an organization on campus that people would enjoy being a part of– for free and for the simple fact of boosting their writing portfolio and reporting the news. Even for a liberal arts university with a considerable journalism department, it was challenging and strenuous to find devoted writers and others willing to stay in an office until 5 a.m. when news broke.
The first task that I had to accomplish while I moved into the new office, off our historic location on Beacon Hill and instead, closer to Downtown Boston, I decided to match that same modern behavior with our design. It was almost too easy: we had to appeal to our readers, and ourselves, more.

For collegiate newspapers across the country, I knew that they were looking to go strictly online and only be an “online new source.” For The Journal, a historical paper on Beacon Hill and in the Greater Boston area among young, aspiring journalists, there was no way that I could bring myself to scratch our print edition. It would have been the easy “way out” on such a large product. Yes, it was expensive and yes, it was seen as “old fashion” by many. But for me, who grew up with my father that would send me to school every morning with a copy of the Hartford Courant and would be quizzed on current events and historical dates at dinner time, I couldn’t bring myself to follow this trend. Instead, I innovated our print edition. 
For years, The Journal would pack as much content with small photos and traditional cutlines across each page of the paper. While this may seem typical, I needed to be strategic, especially in a time when those within my generation were looking to their so-called news feeds on social media platforms for their “most reliable sources.” I needed to prove that the journalism majors of Suffolk University still believed in the quality of a print edition. For an entire summer, I rebranded every inch of the print edition from the front page to the masthead to the colors to the font that we used to number each page. It took hours to align, customize and recreate a decades-old design for a community that would take it and embrace.

Here is a front-page edition of the paper before I was in charge of the design of front page:


Here is a front-page edition when I was the sole designer and decision maker of The Journal:

During the first month of print editions hitting stands, I was forced to increase the number of print editions we ordered each week as there was unprecedented pick up- across campus among all audiences. For the first time in recent years, The Journal would walk anywhere on campus and there would be students, faculty and staff members reading the physical edition of the paper. As this may seem as though it should be obvious for a student newspaper at a small, private university, it was merely impossible to see this evidence of readership before.
However, the print edition wasn’t even close to my largest issue. It was actually the creation of a website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.