Standing in his cargo shorts and blue T-shirt, waiting for the 30 kids in the fluorescent-lit cafeteria to quiet down, Jason Braff glances down, almost timidly, at the index card scrunched in his hand before starting the weekly Monday night meeting. But when he starts speaking, everyone listens.
Jason Braff is the editor in chief of the newly established Quad News, a web newspaper for Quinnipiac University students published weekly but updated throughout the week. He had been the EIC of the Quinnipiac Chronicle, the university’s official print paper, but when administrators said they would choose editorial board members and forbid the Chronicle from publishing breaking news online, Braff withdrew his editor application for the 2008-2009 school year. He didn’t realize that his editorial board would follow his lead.
“Everyone walked out. Every single person,” he said. “I was kind of surprised, but I knew how everyone else felt.”
After deciding to found Quad News last May, the former Chronicle editors spent the summer raising funds and establishing their independence. Now Quinnipiac has two news sources that both receive substantial attention: Quchronicle.com and quadnews. net both rank among the top 100 sites by page views on College Publisher, the world’s largest network of online college newspapers. Still, Braff notes that some freshmen think the Chronicle is the only campus paper.
A more pressing concern is that the Quinnipiac administration has not been kind to Quad News. As reported in the Yale Daily News, Quinnipiac’s Vice President of Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell has called the site a blog that has “aggressively sought to undermine the continued existence” of the school’s official paper. While the Chronicle is still allowed to speak to the Quinnipiac Public Relations department, the Quad News is barred from speaking to administrators, as well as to sports players and coaches. “It’s really forced us to be more creative,” said sports co-editor Steve Nicastro, who is considering publishing running diaries of games to overcome the sourcing limitations. Quad News is also making the best of not being a print publication: its blogs extend traditional news coverage, and video and photo slides are on the way.
Quad News’s openness to innovation during difficult times reflects Braff’s unresentful attitude. Despite the ordeal, he doesn’t consider the administrators to be the “bad guys” and says that they are “not trying to block content.” Braff, who wasn’t allowed to criticize administrative policies publicly as EIC of the Chronicle, notes that administrators had been following a transitional plan to make the Chronicle independent. But he also points out that the administration’s decision to pick editorial board members instead of leaving the choice to the editors and faculty advisor missed the mark.
Despite the distractions, Quad News has its goal in sight. “We try to keep our focus on why we did this in the first place,” Braff said. Quad News eventually wants to put out a printed edition and have an office, but for now, its fundraising pays for publicity. Braff also stresses teamwork and wants to improve news coverage so it does not fall on one person to cover breaking news.
Braff’s leadership and the experience of the editorial board have allowed Quad News to witness early success. By the time the Chronicle had published its first issue this year, the Quad News had posted about three weeks’ worth of content. But the publication must eventually also include freshmen if it is to remain a viable news source. Writers will apply for editorial positions at the end of the semester, and current editors will hand over their positions in the spring. Braff isn’t that worried, and as he puts it with characteristic optimism, “I have confidence in the kids.”