Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Newspaper asks J-Students to make suggestions

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has just launched a Web site and weekly tab following input from Medill students. These initiatives are just the latest real-world newspaper products to come out of the Medill Media Management Project Class in Northwestern's graduate journalism program. Every year for the better part of two decades, some 15 to 20 students spend the spring quarter essentially acting as a newspaper industry consultant firm. For many years, the students worked exclusively with The Times in Munster, Ind., then owned by Howard Publications. Among other projects, the class developed a pre-Web online service and revamped the Saturday paper. Nowadays, program leaders Rich Gordon, chairman of the Newspapers & New Media program, and part-time faculty member Cynthia Linton go looking for a client newspaper — or, just as often, the papers come looking for them. Martin Kaiser, senior vice president and editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, attended the students' presentation in 2002 — and hired the class the next year to figure out how to attract younger readers. "I was really impressed by them," he says. "I thought, boy, getting some smart young people up here and having them in the newsroom and the company would be very good for us. For a long time, I guess they were frustrated because we did nothing [with their ideas]."The students suggested a Web site, a standalone tab and a weekly section inside the Journal Sentinel for adults aged 25 to 34. After sitting on the plan for a while, the paper on Oct. 28 launched a Web site and tab called MKE, named after Milwaukee's airport code.

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