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University Daily Kansan hires new editorial advisor

As the new editorial advisor for the University Daily Kansan, Gerri Berendzen’s main focus for the student newspaper is to keep emphasizing and expanding the digital mentality.

“My biggest goal is to get everyone to be thinking really, truly digital first,” said Berendzen, who came to KU this summer from the University of Missouri, where she was a visiting professor for two years.

Embracing a digital-first focus doesn’t mean that she wants to abandon the print product, Berendzen said. She just wants students to develop separate but aligning strategies for both.

“I think print is really important, but I think the key to being a truly digital-first organization is to say we need our platforms to be different. We can’t have them just mirror each other," she said.

Berendzen has extensive experience, having worked at newspapers in Missouri and Illinois as a reporter, copy editor, wire editor, page designer, copy desk supervisor and city editor. She also taught communications at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri.

Being able to work so closely with students was a big reason Berendzen was interested in the Kansan job, and immediately she identified several challenges and areas for improvement. 

One struggle for any college publication is getting students to read it, so she advised the Kansan journalists to recognize who their audience is and what they want to read. She challenged them to do in-depth journalism but to have fun, too.

“Serious news is important, but newspapers have never been just a news vehicle,” she said. “They have always been an entertainment vehicle, too.”

One way Berendzen said students can be more versatile is to present information in different ways and focus on improving design and headlines.

“I'd like it if when students picked up the UDK that every time they go online or they pick it up in print, there is something they can go ‘wow’ about,” she said.

Because of all the experience that Berendzen brings to her new position, she views her role in the Kansan structure as an “ultimate resource.”

“Being an advisor is different than being the editor,” Berendzen said. “I think it is really important to let the students make their own decisions, but I think that I have a great capacity to direct them in the right areas and give them advice and help them improve. I expect to have their backs, but I also think they are strong enough to fight their own battles.”

— Julie Adam

● Related story: Alumni create fund to sustain the Kansan