New name for UMD student media outlet
An old voice on campus has a new name: The Bark.
The 70-year-old banner of the Statesman was retired on Monday as the University of Minnesota Duluth's student-run news outlet unveiled a new website, a new name and a new approach to serving readers.
"Going forward we are going to be digital-first and really focus on multimedia content and experiment with the way we present our reporting," Editor-in-Chief Ellie Gerst said just before the changeover went live. "With the way journalism is evolving and the way students are consuming news differently, we wanted to be a part of that changing media landscape."
The rebranding comes on the heels of the publication's change to a monthly magazine format last year and follows a great deal of research and outreach.
"I wanted the campus community to be really involved in the discourse surrounding the change," Gerst said.
The name itself — The Bark — was chosen from 131 student submissions. The last time the name was changed substantially was in 1947, when the Duluth Statesman was chosen from student submissions to replace the Fortnightly Chronicle, named so in 1932.
Gerst said The Bark works on many levels, from referencing UMD's bulldog mascot to a Duluthian affinity for nature and the bark of trees that are turned into paper.
"Bark also means to communicate, to warn, to protect, and that's what we strive to do as a news organization," she said.
The Bark's faculty news adviser, Chris Julin, said the buzz around the rebrand is already paying off, with students lighting up about the new website.
"I would say it will be even more of a campus voice," Julin said. "These guys are very aware of including their audience."
Now they want that awareness to be reciprocated. A campus survey last year found nearly half of students weren't familiar with the Statesman — not good news for an operation that relies partly on ad sales — which helped push digital-first efforts into overdrive.
"I don't remember the last time seeing someone standing in a line who picked up a paper, of any kind. You have a minute now, you grab your phone," Julin said. "The visibility the print edition used to get just wasn't working with the young folks."
Like all decisions made at the publication, the move to The Bark was student-led. John Hatcher, director of the journalism program at UMD, said he was impressed with what Gerst and her team came up with.
"They really did their homework," he said. "The impetus is for students to create vibrant, vital media on this campus that's going to engage with audiences."
To that end, Gerst said to expect more photos, videos, audio and graphics; the new website is well-suited for a more visual focus the staff is happy to move toward.
"I feel like this change has already created a renewed buzz and energy in our newsroom to work harder, and be better at what we do," she said.
Gerst, a 21-year-old senior, will graduate in December. Taking her place next semester will be current managing editor and copy editor Kevin Ott.
The Bark can be found at www.TheBarkUMD.com.