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Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

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The Past Four and the Next 100

By Andrew Ta     4/15/16 1:11pm

The past four years mark a new era for the Rice Thresher. The paper has transitioned into the age of digital media and now sits comfortably with a modern website, a dedicated social media presence and an eager mindset for embracing new mediums and reaching new audiences. But progress has not come easily; it has required a host of changes in the habits and culture of the Thresher staff.

When I entered my term as editor in chief, I wanted to provide students a modern and trustworthy source — one that dispelled the rumors and clarified the misconceptions that festered as students turned to new tools like Yik Yak and Snapchat. There’s undoubtedly still room for improvement, but the paper’s core focus, reporting the news of the university and its community, is at its strongest in years. Today, the Thresher continues to explore new avenues for growth, and as 100 years of Thresher history come to a close, looking at the past few may help shed some light on the century to come.

Three years ago, when I first joined the Thresher, its business and editorial models were unsustainable. It paid irresponsible salaries and rushed to publish 20-24 pages weekly. The paper pursued destructive grudges against other campus organizations, damaging an already-poor reputation. That said, it still featured good journalism, releasing a special magazine for the university’s centennial and covering incidents like the record number of hospitalizations during that year’s Night of Decadence party as well as the ensuing alcohol policy changes. That spring semester saw the Thresher cover allegations of discrimination against then-Athletic Director Rick Greenspan and publish an infamous op-ed claiming that the university forcibly ousted unhappy students, which ignited a conversation on campus regarding mental health and the quality of counseling services.



In the following years, we reoriented the paper, balancing the budget and repairing strained relationships. The day of publication shifted from Friday to Wednesday in a bid for more advertising sales, while the size of the weekly print edition shrank to 12 (plus or minus four) pages, giving the editorial staff flexibility to chase quality rather than quantity. The renewed focus on relevant, investigative reporting facilitated coverage of alleged mistreatment from the university’s Student Judicial Programs of those accused of sexual assault or drug use, significant violations of and revisions to the blanket tax process, the invocation of Title IX when a stripper was brought on campus and the university’s and students’ attempts to respond to and prevent sexual assault.

As news coverage strengthened, I prioritized new initiatives, hastening the Thresher’s embrace of the modern century and expanding its offerings in the hopes that the organization could become more than just a weekly paper. I focused on expanding the business and tech officers, hiring dedicated students who will define our future practices. We’ve diversified income sources, looked to online ads and hired ad reps to build partnerships with local businesses. A renewed Facebook presence has encouraged reader discussion, while ongoing projects like the SallyPortal represent efforts to provide additional services to students. In an effort to develop the online-first mindset crucial to an engaged readership, I also pushed the Thresher to seek a more user-friendly content management system; we left the floundering College Publisher for TownNews in 2013, and this year, we migrated to SNWorks. This year also marked the Thresher’s commitment to its physical campus presence as it organized and held the inaugural Thresher-hosted SA debates. 

The Thresher continues to look to improve. As it enters its own second century, four years after the university’s, we’re working to strengthen relationships with our fellow campus organizations, cultivate a diverse perspective representative of the entire Rice community and develop new tools and services for students. The past four years have done wonders for the paper, and as I wrap up my term as editor in chief, I’m excited to see where our current initiatives take the Thresher and what else lies in store.



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