After 102 years of print publication, The Cluster will become digital-only starting in 2023. The Dec. 6 issue will be the final print edition.
This decision is one that the staff has been considering for years, and it didn’t come easy. Becoming digital-only empowers our staff to be equipped with the skills they need in the ever-changing journalism industry. This is, after all, one of our goals as a college newspaper: to train the journalists of tomorrow.
A number of factors went into the decision to retire the print edition, but the primary reason is simple: Gen Z doesn’t read newspapers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it just means that the way we consume news is changing. Industry-wide, large newspapers have been scaling back or shutting down their print editions. It no longer makes sense for our organization, which is educational in nature, to continue to teach our staff how a print news system works when that is likely not what their jobs will look like upon graduation.
The Cluster underwent a major rebrand in 2021, which included a totally reimagined website that more closely mirrors that of a local newsroom. Although mercercluster.com was established in 2011, there had been few updates to the design and organization of the content. This change was intended to bring the focus to our updated “digital-first” platform, meaning stories began being prepared for immediate release rather than the next print edition.
We’ve been practicing a digital-first model since 2020, and we’ve been producing and publishing content at rates equivalent to that of a larger university’s newspaper. Since 2021, content has been released on the website nearly every day class is in session during the fall and spring semesters. This trend will not only continue but improve in the new year.
In the past year, we’ve started a handful of new projects that allow us to be more engaged with our digital audiences, such as Campus Murmurs, an anonymous, simple feature on our homepage to submit messages, tips or feedback. In 2023, we plan to produce email newsletters so our readers can get top headlines sent straight to their inboxes. Our social media team is working hard to improve avenues of communication via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
In the first-ever issue of The Cluster, a column from the Macon Telegraph says: “This is a day of many newspapers. They touch the lives of men as the waves of a sea do a ship. The progressive policy of the Mercer System in the publication of a news journal is built upon a realization of this fact. Other schools will watch to see if success or failure be a university’s reward for attempting to further adjust itself to the needs and conditions of the work-a-day world. It is important that The Mercer Cluster succeed.”
Just as it was founded, The Cluster continues to embrace that progressive spirit of Mercer in the 1920s. We’re not going anywhere, and we will strive to continue providing the Mercer community with the quality coverage it deserves.
Mary Helene Hall ‘23 is a journalism and women’s and gender studies student who has worked for The Cluster throughout her time at Mercer. She has held internships at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AL.com, where she covered a variety of topics including politics, crime and culture.