Meet the new Sagebrush, same as the old Sagebrush?

Though it hasn’t been mentioned online or in their newest print edition, the Nevada Sagebrush has undergone a pretty significant change in internal structure and external product this year under new Editor-in-Chief Ben Miller. And as someone who worked for the paper in the past, and got a sense of what Ben is planning on doing this semester during an interview, I figured that students and faculty would find the changes noteworthy.

1. So long, sports section

Though there were several issues last year that followed the same pattern, it appears that there will no longer be a separate & individual sports section distributed with the Sagebrush. Rather than a four to six page section, it looks like the Sports section will be assigned to the back few pages of the main A section. The move was made because of the extra cost in printing and distributing the extra section, Ben told me during that interview.

2. So long, Arts and Entertainment

The other significant external change is the elimination of the Arts & Entertainment editor position. Though I don’t want to speculate on the section’s closure, as the online version is still up, no posts have been made since June and no stories were produced in the new edition. From conversations with Ben, I think I can glean two reasons behind this decision – one, to eliminate an editor position saving thousands of dollars, and two, because the section has been quite barren and not very interesting in the past few years.

3. Hello, new online staff

One of the Sagebrush’s big initiatives this year is to expand their presence online, similar to the paths taken by my perennial favorite college paper The Oregon Daily Emerald. And looking at the organization’s contact page shows that split pretty well – essentially the positions of assistant editor has been replaced by online editor.

Verdict

Overall, I feel like the Sagebrush is moving in the right direction, while still staying grounded in their traditional product. On paper, it’s a great system. In reality, it’s a little worse than that. Just from my experience, I know plenty of advertisers and students are only interested in the sports section, and won’t be happy about it shrinking.

Additionally, cutting an entire section seems like a bad idea. There are plenty of great opportunities for lifestyle and culture writers to gain valuable experience – Roger Ebert got his start writing movie reviews in his college paper. College papers, much like alt-weeklies, are critical in covering non-traditional topics that appeal to a younger audience – I’d much rather read a movie or eatery review in the Sagebrush than I would in the Reno Gazette-Journal because I relate closer to the Sagebrush. Rather, reducing the salary of an Arts and Entertainment Editor or splitting the duties with an Opinion Editor would work out much better.

And in regards to the focus online, I think it can work – if the work is put in. So far, only a handful of new stories have appeared on the website a day after publication, and I can find articles all the way from April on the front page. Blogs are out of date, the contact sheet was only updated a day or two before school started – for a news organization focusing on online, they really aren’t doing much of that. Part of it is adjusting back to school, but it will be interesting to see how successful this shift will be. In my three years at Nevada, I’ve seen the Sagebrush shift from a 20-odd person, beefy news outlet that competed for national awards, to one that was barely scraping along at the end of last year. It’s a critical time to be a member of the Nevada Sagebrush – let’s see if they step it up.