On February 1, 2008, the Acadiana Educational Endowment launched an eZine covering the University of Louisiana. Reflecting back from our 3rd anniversary, we realize that we have seen and learned and done some things. And we have had some impact: in those three years, 56,000 unique visitors have visited our 'site, and have viewed over a quarter million pages.

One thing we have learned is that we may be unique. We have only spot-checked among a few of the best public and private schools, but so far as we know, ultoday.com is the only independent media covering a University anywhere.

In those three years, we have gradually but significantly increased media and popular attention for UL. We have seen stories and headlines on ultoday.com picked up on and off campus and disseminated to an even wider audience. Along the way, we have discovered new ways of collecting and broadcasting news about our University and our alumni. Growing UL is a collaborative effort of many groups intramural and extramural, and we are please with anything we may have added to the effort.

With time, we began covering the UL District-- in fact, we created the concept. With that, we became more interested in Town & Gown relationships. This is no small point: it is very rare for a University and a community to share the tight collaborative relationship we enjoy here in Lafayette. This does not happen with any other major university that we know of, and it is one we need to guard and nurture.

We believe we have also created a shift among UL's supporters. One of the major sources of traffic for ultoday.com is RaginPagin.com, which is primarily a sports discussion board. We can track what pages our visitors view, and when we launched the website, the interest from our readers was overwhelmingly for sports. But over the years, we have seen readership for research, academics, and the politics of higher education grow dramatically.

Two years ago, when the current state budget cuts were beginning, we began a petition to amend the Louisiana Constitution (vide infra) to protect higher education. At that time, signatories' information was automatically forwarded to the relevant elected officials. The Governor's office specifically asked us to stop forwarding the information to them, and thereafter the state blocked our efforts to send eMails to other elected officials. Nevertheless, we gathered over 2300 signatures, and heightened public awareness of the problem.

Part of our intentions in launching ultoday.com was to learn the software and the processes so that we could provide colleges and high schools with their own publishing platforms. We created TheVerm.com, and recently the editor of The Vermilion has discussed reactivating the 'site. We also created a platform for a high school here in south Louisiana, but they have yet to implement their capabilities. Just yesterday we spoke with another group about offering them a website as well.

As we learned about the technical and practical aspects on online publishing, we also discovered some very interesting questions. For instance, What is journalism? And what does the term 'issue' mean anymore? The word 'journal' means 'daily', and before the Internet, issues of newspapers and magazines were collections of articles that were 'periodically' released in collected formats, an arrangement required by costs and technological limitations of printing and distribution. What is a journal, an issue or a periodical when articles online are added around the clock, within minutes of a story breaking?

Another interesting question we came across is, What is permanent? Most of us would think of a paper publication as a permanent record, and the electronic version as ephemeral. In fact, the opposite is true. Some years ago, The Times lost their morgue after a hurricane. The public library and Dupré probably still carry their archives, but those will age and become brittle. How permanent is paper? How accessible is it? On the other hand, as electronic storage becomes cheaper and more efficient, and as the Internet can already distribute information everywhere in the world, it is quite possible we will soon see the day that no electronic media ever disappears. What we write today will exist as long as humanity does. It appears that flipped atomic nuclei and caroming electrons, weirdly enough, may be more durable than heavy stacks of processed paper and cotton.

On the other hand, the ease and rapidity of electronic editing bring up ethical concerns about impermanence. Until there is a formal archiving mechanism for electronic media (the Wayback Machine was an early attempt, but it has not kept up with the explosion of cyberspace), it is highly vulnerable to malicious mischief. We frequently add links to articles long after they are written, and occasionally will add a few words to facilitate the links. What is to prevent us from altering articles wholesale, and obfuscate the record of what was originally published?

We have also discovered the possibility of citizen journalism. A few years ago we met with the acting CEO and a staffer from Wikipedia here in Lafayette, and as we began looking at their operation, and at the blogosphere, YouTube, and many others, we became aware that traditional ideas of 'authority' were being challenged and even eroded. Institutional journalism is declining quickly, and as it does citizen journalism will become more important. We need discussions about how to enhance the participation-- and the professionalism (if that word is applicable to non-professionals)-- of that public contribution.

And we learned about what people read, and to some extent, what they don't. But we also suspect that not everything needs to be read... that just having the articles and headlines about some topics make our readers aware that there is a larger University, and a larger world out there.

Here are the 25 headlines that you read in the past three years, in approximate order of number of pageviews:

1. The Cajun Crawler
   The Cajun Crawler, Interviews & Video
   The Cajun Crawler on National TV - The Discovery Channel Contacts ultoday.com
   Cajun Crawler on the Discovery Channel
   Cajun Crawler Crawls Overseas

In February 2009, a UL faculty member alerted us to this weird conveyance. ultoday.com broke the story and since that time, the little machine has been picked up across the world.

2. The Budget Crisis
   Higher Ed's Share of the Cuts
   UL to Lose 37% of Funding 
   House Votes Down Colleges, 34-69 
   President Savoie on the Budget Cuts 
   Dr. Savoie on the Budget Cuts 
The current budget crisis is one of the greatest threats to UL since WWII.

3. Petition to Defend & Advance Louisiana Education

See above.

4. The Humane Society, Nightline and the NIRC: A Hatchet Job? 

When ABC's Nightline broke a seemingly scandalous expose of UL's Primate Center, We took a look at it.

And found almost nothing there.

5. UL's Logo Crisis 

Despite the popularity of 'Ragin' Cajuns' and 'University of Louisiana', UL's other marks have not been so successful.

6. David Begnaud
   Alum David Begnaud Breaks National News Story 
   David Begnaud Interview 

David Begnaud has enjoyed great success as a broadcast journalist. From what we're hearing, he may very well be a national personality in the near future.

7. Chris Carroll
   Civil Engineering's Chris Carroll 
   Science Channel Debuts UL Engineering Prof's Shows 

Engineering prof Carroll has made a bit of a splash on major TV with his demonstrations of construction techniques.

8. UL Desegregation: Prelude, 1953-1954 

The University of Florida Press was gracious enough to let us serialize a chapter from one of their books on UL's pioneering but almost completely unknown contribution to desegregation in the US. The series is broken into 12 parts, and was written by Appalachian State Historian & UL alumnus Mike Wade.

9. What's a fan to do?

Is there a conspiracy to hold down Ragin' Cajuns athletics?

10. Lafayette High Alum in Top 20 for "GLEE" Casting Contest

The daughter of UL's Director of Bands was the subject of one of our more popular articles.

11. Quarterback Club, Troy & ULM 

There was a lot of excitement heading into the end of the 2009 season and the finale against Troy.

12. Lafayette Timeline 

Not many people know that the first ancestors of the Cajuns arrived 16 years before the Mayflower sailed, or the many pivotal and pioneering things that Lafayette & UL have done in the 400 years since...

13. UL, LSU Faculty Win Prestigious Rome Prize 

UL architecture prof Michael McClure and his wife Ursula who teaches at LSU, won one of the largest prizes in architecture and spent a year studying in Rome. This was a major story, but was hardly even noticed by the state & local media.

14. The Live Oak Society

UL's 1st President created an organization honoring the beautiful old oaks of the South.

15. The UL District 

The concept that the area around UL is very different from the rest of Lafayette is slowly growing in civic circles.

16. Architecture & Design: Year in Review (2009)

17. Athletic Budgets: UL vs Peer Institutions 

This 2009 breakdown surprised many people.

18. New Lamson Field Renderings 

The first of several UL athletics upgrades.

19. UL Fishing Team Places 2nd 

UL's club sports are also nationally competitive.

20. When is #2 Better than #1? 

Rethinking the overweaning importance put on being #1.

21. Robert Twilley is New VP for Research 

Even people in Baton Rouge were surprised when Twilley left LSU to come back to UL.

22. What is Lafayette's #1 Industry? 

Education, not oil, is Lafayette's greatest economic engine.

23. Top UL Stories for 2010 

A review of the major stories affecting the University.

24. Smart Growth: Toward a UL Master Plan 

UL can build its tiny land-locked campus into an intellectual and esthetic showpiece.

25. Federal Judge Richard T. Haik 

Former footballer Dickie Haik remains a huge Cajuns supporter.


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