”The Observer” website named among top 10 in U.S.

observerThe Observer, Case Western Reserve University’s independent student newspaper, recently earned accolades for its website. The Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) named observer.case.edu the No. 7 student-newspaper website in the country among similarly sized schools. This distinction places The Observer among student newspapers at universities such as Tulane and Wake Forest.

Senior Tyler Hoffman, executive editor and publisher of The Observer, learned of the distinction at the annual ACP conference in late October in New Orleans. This ranking marks a one-spot improvement since The Observer first landed on the Associated Collegiate Press’ top-10 rankings in March.

“The site has only been live for 15 months now, and to have earned national recognition twice in that period of time is amazing,” Hoffman said.

He also noted Case Western Reserve was the only school on the rankings that does not have a formal journalism program—proving the innate talents of the student body. “This just shows CWRU is really staking its claim in an area where we’re very well suited, but not necessarily academically focused,” Hoffman said.

A restructuring of The Observer staff at the end of last school year was the catalyst for getting the website to its current level, Hoffman said. At that time, he and his team realized the editorial-focused leadership structure placed too much emphasis on the traditional print edition. To achieve a better balance, he created four director-level positions, with undergraduates Sheehan Hannan leading the print edition, Meredith Dykehouse managing design, Kyle Patterson focused on web and multimedia work and Cole Morris overseeing advertising.

“It evened the playing field so it didn’t make the print issue be the end all, be all,” Hoffman explained. “And it allowed the directors to build their teams with strong staff members—reporters, copy editors, designers, developers, and sales representatives. I have the benefit of working with probably the most committed and talented group of students I’ve ever encountered.”

The new structure allowed the design team to thoroughly rethink its layout in print, which also extends online. Rather than take a traditional newspaper approach, Hoffman said, The Observer’s designers use a more magazine-driven style.

In addition, the publication has focused more on telling the lesser-known personal stories of the campus community. For instance, this past week’s edition of The Observer included the first installment in a multipart series titled “Capturing CWRU.” Authored by Hoffman, the series will depict students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members who together comprise the identity of Case Western Reserve. “They are the characters of Case Western Reserve University, and this is our story,” Hoffman writes.

According to Hoffman, this personal approach has helped to increase the sense of engagement between The Observer and its audience.

“The number of faculty, students and staff who now take the time to write a Letter to the Editor is inspiring, and their interest is really a point of pride for me,” said Hoffman, who’s served as The Observer‘s executive editor for the past two years. “It’s really been something else to see the transition of the paper. My goal has always been to leave it in a better place than where we found it four years ago.”