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Letter from the Editor: changes to the Carletonian in the age of digital media

Dear Reader,

On the second day of the term, the Carletonian learned that our local printing plant would be shutting its doors. The news was unexpected and sent us scrambling to find alternative printing options nearby. 

The closure of Cannon Valley Printing was a wake-up call for me. As a lifelong bibliophile, print media is something I cherish, yet have taken for granted. I understand that print media is not sustainable. I understand the environmental impacts of wasted paper. I understand the move to digital media. But, above all, I understand that print media is dying. Cannon Valley is just another victim of a larger epidemic. 

For the first two weeks of the term, we searched tirelessly for other printing options within our budget. We gathered estimates, requested mock-ups, and met with print company representatives. Each meeting led us to the same answer: that the Carletonian would go bankrupt after a term of printing, regardless of the location we chose. 

The Carletonian has been Carleton’s fully independent paper of record since 1877. We’re one of the country’s oldest student-run publications. That’s no small feat. Our storied history is manifested in our printed archives; as such, I truly believe that print issues of the newspaper are fundamental to the Carletonian’s tradition and character. Thus, when faced with Cannon Valley’s closed doors, my co-editor and I were confronted with a tough choice: seek unprecedented funding from the school, or go completely digital. We chose the former. 

The Carletonian has documented the weekly events of our campus for nearly a century-and-a-half. We distribute our weekly issues across campus, leaving them in various buildings, handing them to friends, and scattering copies around Sayles. Our paper reaches alums and parents, with weekly batches mailed out to print subscribers. The Carletonian is kept at the Libe too, put on the same shelf as newspapers like The New York Times and Star Tribune. Weekly copies are archived in the Gould Library Collections, made readily accessible to students. To have access to those old editions—to be able to turn their yellowed pages, feel their ink on fingertips, examine their creases, and snap them back into place—is to be connected to history. And is that not what media is about? Sharing information in a tangible way? Creating and preserving pieces of history in the hopes of documenting the world as you know it? 

It gives me purpose to know that, one day in the future, someone will read an archived Carletonian and feel a connection with me—the same way I do when I read a story from the archives. I want readers to have that material connection to the past—not to their computer or their phone—but to the printed page that I lovingly composed, admired, and picked up to read myself. I hope they’ll be able to sense the care and meaning I imbued into its pages, as I leafed through the issue, smudged its ink, pressed its creases, and carefully folded it back into place.

I see our struggle to maintain a printed paper reflected at peer institutions across the country. Yet, with the support of Carleton and its students, I have confidence that the Carletonian will both stay true to its printed tradition and evolve to keep up with the times. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, that means we’ve officially unveiled our new website—sans paywall. We’ve also modernized our pages, optimizing them for print. We hope that with these changes, wider audiences will see what we’ve known all along: that what we do here is special, and that the Carletonian is integral to how we document, understand, challenge, and celebrate life at Carleton.

I will be completely honest with you. This job is hard. But I am grateful for it every day, because I know that I am doing what I can to preserve something that I love. As long as I am an Editor-in-Chief, the Carletonian will remain a printed publication. 

Sincerely,

Sarah Lieberman, Editor-in-Chief 

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