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Wildcat makes changes to adapt to industry fluctuations

The masthead still reads The Daily Wildcat, at least online. The email addresses still link to @dailywildcat.com.

But from a print standpoint, the University of Arizona's newspaper ended its daily ink run this semester.

The Wildcat's long-time broadsheet look has been revamped as well, and now arrives in the form of a tabloid that hits news bins three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It has much less to do with financial necessity, although website traffic was losing traction, and much more to do with acting as a reflection of the business.

"Students who go into our programs most likely aren't going to work in print, and we weren't giving them the opportunities to learn the visual process, how to write, how to think, when is it a hot time to drop stories, how should I be tweeting, how should I be engaging my followers, and it's really important now to know how to do that," said Wildcat editor-in-chief Jessie Webster. "We thought we had a great opportunity to offer something different. There are some great internships out there, but we wanted to make us something special for them."

Other than web traffic, which Webster says has already shown signs of improvement since the new launch, internal analysis has suggested many students didn't bother reading or picking up the publication every weekday. But staff didn't want to make the dramatic online-focused cutbacks experienced by other student newspapers across the country, and worked to find a sweet spot.

"There aren't a whole lot of schools doing five days a week, and a lot of them have since dropped to one or two," Webster said. "Very few are doing three or four. We know we didn't want to go lower than three. It's the perfect number. We have fresh news Monday, a look ahead to the weekend entertainment on Friday and a nice midweek platform to run a lot of catch up material to stay on top of the news."

Many issues of the broadsheet version of The Daily Wildcat would be 12 pages, but so far the tabloid is checking in on average anywhere from 24 to 36 pages. Furthermore, in a move that would have occurred regardless of the change in delivery dates, the publication has upped its print run from 6,500 to 7,000, adding locations downtown to accommodate student-housing sites.

It's added important staff as well.

"We have a print editor and a digital editor," Webster said. "They can focus on what they know best. We have people who can play to their strengths. Michael McKisson's class (in the UA Department of Journalism) does an excellent job preparing students and editors to be on the paper."

While it's early in the process, Webster says advertising still appears strong, hovering in the 40 percent range, a number similar to the most recent broadsheet era.

"We are a very unique case for university newspapers because we have a really active readership base," Webster said. "Our advertising has been fantastic. Everyone assumes (going from five days to three was) because we couldn't sustain what we were doing. That's not it. We just thought we could do it better."

At least pretend you want to play the games

Based on last Thursday night's broadcast of the Arizona football season opener at home against UT-San Antonio, it appears classic hits station KHYT 107.5 FM wants as little to do with airing the games as possible.

A few years ago, IMG, the overlords who on one hand dole out edicts to Cumulus Tucson about how to cover UA sports programming, and then on the other claim they have no say over what the local stations do, demanded that in addition to broadcasting UA football and men's basketball games on Wildcat flagship KCUB AM 1290, it also air the games on a second station with FM reach and stronger signal strength.

Since Cumulus Tucson didn't want its tentpole station, country music format KIIM 99.5 FM, to be hindered by UA game interference, it compromised with KHYT, a signal with equally powerful reach.

But it's been clear since that deal was struck KHYT wanted as little to do with live UA sports as possible. In the past, that meant joining programming roughly 15 minutes early for the tail-end of IMG's's hour-long pregame and about the first 15 minutes of the IMG produced postgame.

If game one is any indication, one second of postgame is way too much Wildcat coverage. Play-by-play announcer Brian Jeffries barely uttered the final score, "Arizona Forty-two, UTSA thirty-t ..." before he was abruptly cut off in favor of Pat Benatar.

What will the response be at IMG? Will it wonder, "Hey, Cumulus Tucson, even though I have no say over how much UA programming you decide to carry (wink, wink), at least Treat Me Right?"

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