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Online news for the students, by the students

[photo]
The homepage of the newly launched online version of the LAU Tribune student newspaper.

[photo]
Future journalists learn their trade in the LAU Tribune newsroom.

June 6, 2011—

A group of dedicated journalism students launched an online version of the LAU Tribune student newspaper last month in an effort to reach a wider readership and keep up with the changing times.

The online Tribune features the same kind of content found in the print version, including campus news, culture and fashion, and off-campus issues, but has new interactive forums such as a poll and a Twitter feed.

“We have some really cool tidbits that change every Monday during the semester,” says 22-year-old journalism major and editor-in-chief of the online edition Eleena Korban. “There’s the ‘Teacher of the Week’ section, daily cafeteria menu, social media tips and tricks, a photo slideshow, etc. You can comment, like, and share, but the best feature is that the writers are listening and they welcome ideas and discussion.”

“Lebanon has a huge online community that loves to read about issues concerning students,” adds Korban.

“The whole world is moving to online [platforms],” says Dr. Yasmine Dabbous, assistant professor of journalism and media studies, who is the Tribune advisor. “These days students should be able to show that they are comfortable with producing online content, as well as understand the differences between online, print and broadcast mediums.”

The push to take the paper online was a collaborative effort between Dabbous and her students in the Journalism Workshop course, which effectively serves as the newsroom where the Tribune is produced throughout the semester.

“The idea gained full speed at the beginning of this past semester in Workshop II,” Dabbous says. “All of the work was done by the students, I just supervised and advised. I try to make it a policy to let them make the editorial decisions,” she adds.

“Since our class was the first to go online, we basically had to build the website,” says Korban. “Supervised and advised by Dr. Dabbous, I worked with the editors-in-chief of the print paper, Mohamad Yahia Hamade and Caroline Hodroj. It took us at least four, two-hour meetings to decide on the plan. Uploading the previous articles and designing the site took about two–three weeks,” she adds.

Students are responsible for monitoring and updating the site, either twice a week or weekly depending on the content. As editor-in-chief, Korban ensures that each article is uploaded and published by Monday at noon in the correct category, with the proper tags and photos.

“It has become a digital world and students are going to have to work with digital platforms, so it is important to learn how to write for an online paper. The reporting is different, the writing is different,” Korban says.

At the moment, the site is running off a domain from WordPress, a popular blog creation site. Korban hopes that in a year the Tribune will have its own website and domain, or as Dabbous says, they want to make it look “more New York Times, and less Huffington Post.”

“This is a big move forward for the Tribune,” Hamade says. “It’s been a good year in terms of reaching out to a larger community and now everyone can read the paper — people abroad, alumni, etc.”

The site has a daily statistics page, and traffic has been good, says Dabbous. “On the first day we launched, we had 464 hits and the second day more than 300. But this is a project that needs continuous promotion.”

“I’m hoping that next year the Tribune will have an Arabic section on the website,” says Hamade.

Like most LAU students, the LAU Tribune will take a break during the summer and will resume publication in fall 2011.

lau-tribune-online-03-big.jpgDr. Yasmine Dabbous (left), Tribune faculty advisor, shows journalism students the ins and outs of a newsroom during her Journalism Workshop course, as part of which the Tribune is produced throughout the semester.

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