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JCOM students launch new online magazine ‘Aggie BluePrint’

By Kristen Munson
Reprinted from Utah State Today

LOGAN—Your campus. Your community. Your magazine.

That’s the tagline for Aggie BluePrint, a new student-produced magazine launched in January by JCOM students at Utah State University. The monthly online magazine is the brainchild of Kate Rouse DuHadway, a senior journalism major from Logan who wanted to create an outlet for students to share their perspective with the rest of the Cache Valley community.

“To me, this is a different animal than the Statesman,” she said. “I think we need both a student newspaper and a magazine. We want to be able to reflect—and to be—the voices for the students. As journalists, it’s our responsibility to be the voice of the community.”

During the course of her study at USU, Rouse DuHadway noticed how siloed the various departments were across the university. There are amazing things that happen here, she said, but people only know about them if they occur in their discipline or building. Rouse DuHadway, who as a student has been a features writer for the Herald Journal for two years, wanted to devise an interactive magazine that would connect students with ideas and happenings on campus and throughout the valley.

“I took an entrepreneurship class to see what it would entail. I wrote a business plan,” she said.

Then Rouse DuHadway enrolled in journalism professor Cathy Bullock’s magazine writing class, Beyond the Inverted Pyramid. A requirement of the course is that students develop and pitch stories to area magazines for publication.

“They kept coming up with ideas that would be great for an on campus publication,” Bullock said.

During class, Rouse DuHadway asked her peers if they would be interested in starting their own magazine. They were. She offered her business plan and BluePrint spun out of the class, with Bullock guiding the process. She serves as BluePrint’s faculty adviser.

The BluePrint staff points out that there are nearly 17,000 students on USU’s Logan campus. They comprise a significant portion of the county’s population. They are tech savvy. And they have opinions they want to share. BluePrint is one way they can.

“We need their perspective,” Bullock said. “The students are really on fire about it. I love that it is student-run. It is student writing, student editing, student photographers and student designers.”

The editorial team assembled surveys they distributed over Facebook to learn what USU students care most about. Section editors were named. Stories were assigned. And a website constructed. Aggie BluePrint came online in January.

They also entered Opportunity Quest, an annual business innovation competition in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business that is open to all USU students. It fosters new business ventures by giving students a chance to present their ideas to a panel of judges and potentially win startup funding. Aggie BluePrint was among the top 10 finalists.

Most of the students involved with BluePrint are seniors. Because they don’t want the magazine to expire when they graduate, they developed what they believe will be a sustainable business plan with room to grow. They are now recruiting other students to participate and to inherit Aggie BluePrint when they graduate.

“The beauty of it is it started with journalism students, but it is a place for everybody,” Rouse DuHadway said. “It’s exciting for students to be building something from the ground up.”

A key component of their magazine is connecting with their readers. They want Aggie BluePrint to be your homepage. They want students to contribute their stories, experiences, and ideas to the magazine.

“An integral part of what we are doing is building a community,” Rouse DuHadway said. “We want everyone to contribute and make their voices heard. That’s what makes it work; it can’t be only one person. This is for USU students. They have to be excited about it—and they are.”

Results from the student surveys revealed a strong preference for a print edition of the magazine. Starting next semester, the editors aim to release a print publication in addition to the work and forums available online now.

Print isn’t dying; it’s changing, Rouse DuHadway said. “People will always want news, they will always want information. We are integrating the best of both worlds with BluePrint. But we need a print edition in order to survive.”

Rhett Wilkinson, BluePrint’s assistant managing editor, believes the online magazine is where students can marry their interests with the application of skills they learn in the classroom.

“This is a great opportunity for students,” he said. “This is an interactive machine.”

BluePrint is designed to adapt to changes in how news is delivered. The founders wanted to make a model that will work now, in the future, and that gives students a skillset they can apply once they graduate. They also intend to be independent from university funding so that if budgets tighten in the future they won’t be on the chopping block.

“It’s a requisite for our community that we don’t have just one source [of information],” said JCOM senior Max Parker Dahl, editor of the campus life section. “I just want to write something that is my voice as a student. Even if I look back one day and say, ‘Wow that was stupid,’ at least I was able to do it.”

For more information about how to write for BluePrint, contact Kate Rouse DuHadway or faculty adviser Cathy Bullock in the JCOM office.

Read and comment on Aggie BluePrint here.

TP