Taylor Culliver: Restructuring necessary for a strong future

Change really is alive at the DP. We’ve all known for awhile now that our organization was in need of some drastic changes both financially and editorially. My goal from the start of my term as Executive Editor has been to work with everyone across the organization to take the steps necessary to make those thoughts become a reality.

With the great leadership we have in our editors and managers, and the implementation of our new Board of Directors, I’m more confident than ever that the steps we have taken are laying a new foundation for the DP to grow and innovate, be financially sustainable, and above all, offer a better, more valuable experience for our student staff.

We've made several major decisions to change and move the DP forward as we enter the 2014-15 school year, and I'd like to share a few of my thoughts about our decisions.

On restructuring professional staff:

After much deliberation and exhausting all options to find ways to cut our expenses, it became evident that we were going to need to shrink the size of our professional staff. Coming to terms with the fact that Dave Graham will no longer be here in the fall has been the hardest of tasks. He has given so much to our organization and it is hard to see him go. However, in thinking about our strategic goal to cut costs so that we could justify putting money towards new projects and innovative ideas, I am confident that with the three remaining professional staffers we can continue our necessary operations and open up opportunities that otherwise may not have existed. This also means that students will be picking up more responsibilities and gaining valuable experiences that were in the hands of our professional staff for some time now. I have faith in our students and our professional staff to be able to handle this transition, even through all of the bumps that will accompany it, with passion and resilience.

On innovation:

As an organization, we have to become more innovative. This starts by fostering a culture of new ideas and willingness to take risks. Because we’ve put ourselves in a less-stressed financial position, it is my hope and the hope of the Board to be able to spend money to fund new innovative projects. Every media organization in the country is finding new ways to bring their content to their readers and create new revenue streams — and if they’re not, then they’re getting left behind. We need to maintain that same mentality, and make sure we’re bringing that mentality to everyone who comes through our door. Though it will take time to foster that culture, I’m excited for the possibilities that will come from this new fund.

On increased digital focus:

The spring semester saw a new energy behind our print product: better, more vibrant front pages, and great graphics and photos to accompany great stories. Additionally, our readers have proven that they are still engaged with the print product, and I believe that the print experience brings something to the table that the digital experience never will. We will continue to strive to give our readers a very engaging and vibrant print experience. 

However, the time is long overdue that we focus more of our efforts towards our digital future. More focus on our digital presence will help bring us up to speed in an increasingly digital atmosphere that we will continue to fall behind in if we do not approach it aggressively. Moreover, we need to provide student staff with as much real world media, journalism, and business experience as possible to prepare them for jobs after they graduate —  jobs that will increasingly be performed in a digital environment. However, we can’t add significant more layers of work on our hard-working staff — and expect them to excel with a more vibrant, more frequently-updated website — without finding ways to do less somewhere else. 

The elimination of the Friday print edition is not a retreat from print. Although there are some modest cost savings in eliminating one print edition per week, this decision was not financially motivated. This is a part of a long term strategy necessary for the DP, coinciding with the launch of our new websites this fall.

 

I know there will be concerns and questions that many of you have, and I’m happy to field any of them. Please don’t hesitate to write me. By the end of the year, the DP is going to be in a much better position than it has been in years, thanks to the amazing Board I’ve had the opportunity to work with and the continual desire to do things differently and better. That mindset, in my opinion, has been what’s missing for too long, and it’s time to get back on the right track. 

Taylor Culliver is a senior in the Wharton School. He is the DP Executive Editor and President of its Board of Directors. 

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