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What Comes Next: The Future and The Heights

For the last 98 and a half years, wherever you’ve been in Chestnut Hill, The Heights has been there, too.

Together, we’ve seen Boston College name its athletic program and academic halls in our very pages. We marched alongside tuition strikes and sat-in during Vietnam War protests. We stood in awe of Flutie’s Hail Mary, and admired the early comedic works of one future star. And we gazed in wondrous amazement as Lower Campus rose before our eyes, clapped as new buildings opened and old ones—yes, the Mods—stayed open, and wait with bated breath as that next phase of construction begins.

For this near-century of journalism, these inked-up pages have served this community with great honor and pride. We have done so independently—a move that has allowed us to freely cover news uncensored at this university with unparalleled dedication and enthusiasm—for the past 47 of those years.

But, as we enter fall 2017, the media business is just that—a business. Over the last decade, that business has changed. Publications can no longer depend on revenue from print advertising alone. Demand for a physical paper has shrunk, and online advertising has yet to meet its full potential. As a self-sustaining, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, our margins are razor thin. The way we, and newspapers across the country, must operate is vastly different from the way we did even just 10 years ago. College newspapers have adjusted, and sped ahead with these times.

To date, The Heights has yet to catch up. This fall, we’re going to start.

Here’s what comes next.

Starting in September, The Heights will return to a once-a-week print cycle, as it was for the first 85 years of its existence. While the switch to twice-a-week in 2005 made sense at the time, the advertising bubble of the last decade has caused us to reevaluate where the core part of our audience lies. The print edition, which will continue on Mondays, will shift from an effort to present the most breaking news of the day, to a qualitative roundup of our week. The paper will include our best works from all six of our stellar content sections. With more time to focus on layout, our design team will make The Heights look more appealing than ever before.

While our physical presence will only be weekly, our online presence will achieve a mission that we have strived for, but never quite fully reached: to cover BC, non-stop, around the clock, every single day. You’ll see an uptick in trend stories, investigations, and longer-form features to which we can now dedicate our time. The lack of relying on a twice-a-week deadline will allow us to be more patient and more deliberate in what we write and how we write it. We will keep our social media accounts buzzing with news at all hours. Our newfound efforts in multimedia will create more interactive content. And we will work tirelessly throughout the week, dedicating time saved from the rote process of creating the print product to new endeavors.

The exact timeline is fluid, but here are some of the many goals we have set. The following are some of the exciting changes you can expect before our centennial year in 2019.

-A redesigned bcheights.com. You’ll already notice that our interface has changed dramatically, as we have replaced our antiquated WordPress theme to one that is more modern. Parts of the site are still under construction, and eventually, we plan to move onto a site that’s completely our own.

-An app, which will debut this semester, to provide a better mobile reading and viewing experience.

-More multimedia content. We plan to regularly churn out videos and podcasts from each of our sections to present the news in as many media as possible. We also intend to incorporate new editorial sections, like personal announcements or the revitalization of our blog. 

-A creative agency that will tap into our photo, graphics design, social media, video, and more, to provide you services at a range of rates with the same commitment to excellence that we treat The Heights. It will be an drastically new path for us, but it is one we feel is worth attempting.

-The Heights Introduction Program, or HIP, our revamped entry-level training program, now available to all BC first-year students, with features that will integrate sophomores and juniors in all aspects of our process.

The transition will not be easy. We view the fall as an experiment in true, daily coverage and placing the proper emphasis on our online presence. Our course will change throughout the semester, but our goal to bring the BC community the best product possible remains forever the same. It will be a collaborative group effort among the 42 members of our editorial board, as well as the countless staffers and contributors of The Heights. We’ll be updating the site regularly as we move along this path, keeping our valued readers as engaged as possible with our progress.

But we want to hear your thoughts, too. Email us at community@bcheights.com, tweet at us, send messages to our Facebook page—even drop off a letter at McElroy 113 if you want to. We invite you to follow along with our efforts on our Facebook page, @bcheights on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and with our newsletter. You can even support this mission by donating to The Heights here.

The Heights has always been by the students, for the good of the BC community—those two facts will, of course, never change. In turn, it is the BC community’s right to be covered in the most accurate and engaging way possible, without external influence. As we come upon our next 100 years, we are, at last, orienting ourselves to do so by adapting to the media world, striving to preserve the longevity of our identity as the independent newspaper of Boston College.

We’ve joined you all along this journey through all of Boston College’s many changes. Now that we’re changing, we hope you join us.

-Sully, Avita, and Taylor

August 8, 2017