Austin Brumblay didn’t intend to become a journalist when he entered Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. But, sometimes fate intervenes. And this unanticipated change in direction became the Daily Forty-Niner’s gain when he transferred to Long Beach State University in 2018.
Now in his senior year, Brumblay is leaning into his role as the new editor-in-chief of the Daily Forty-Niner. He spent his summer reimagining the print version of the paper, putting more resources into the multimedia platforms — including a complete overhaul of the website — and restructuring the editorial team.
It’s no coincidence that with the 70th anniversary of the paper coming up this November, Brumblay started looking to the past to determine the publication’s future. His goal is a return to the paper’s roots as the “trusted campus news source,” while working to usher in the digital-first era of today’s modern student.
We caught up with Brubmlay to talk about how he’s tackling the responsibilities and challenges of his new role and what he sees for the future of the Daily Forty-Niner
How did you get into Journalism?
I was originally an early childhood education major at Cuesta College. I took a GE English course and my professor mentioned that I should look into writing. I was unsure because I didn’t think I was very good at it, but he kept pressuring me to really think about it. He blindly entered one of my essays in a competition and I ended up placing. That is when I thought I should give [writing] a shot. I didn’t want to be an English major because I didn’t think that wouldn’t get me anywhere. So, over that summer I signed up for the newspaper and journalism [courses] and I’ve loved it ever since.
What do you hope to accomplish after you graduate?
So there are two possible paths for me. The journalism field right now is very stagnant. I would like to be a reporter for a local outlet here in Long Beach or the LA area. But if that doesn’t work out, I am thinking of going to graduate school and getting a teaching credential.
How do you manage your time between editing content, deadlines, leading your staff and a normal class schedule?
It’s always a challenge here at the Daily Forty-Niner. Luckily I have a great staff. I assembled a team of editors who really take the load off of me. Having them do the meat of the work makes my life a lot easier. School-wise, it’s always a balancing act. Luckily, I only have one class a day this semester. It’s always tough trying to balance those two.
What challenges do you face with the Daily Forty-Niner?
Consistency is always a big thing, because we try to compete with [professional] news organizations here in Long Beach. It’s hard being a student, being an editor at a paper and running the paper too. We try to go toe-to-toe with all the other publications, and sometimes work gets in the way and class gets in the way. But overall I think we do a very good job.
What are some of the ways you’re trying to engage more readers in the publication?
That’s a great question. It’s always a struggle to try and get students to engage. Over the summer I was able to go to the College Media Mega Workshop in Minnesota. They talked about audience engagement, specifically for college students. The big takeaway was that students love reading about their peers and professors. Over the summer, we decided to restruce and hyper-focus on the student body. CSULB is like its own small city; there’s all kinds of great people doing great things!
What went into the decision to change the look of the Daily Forty-Niner?
Over the summer we took a closer look at the print newspaper and website. There was a lot of discussion about who we were and what we offered to the students. Ultimately, we decided to go back to our roots. We are the campus news source, written by student journalists. So we wanted the look and feel to reflect that, more like a newspaper again. In my opinion, the previous print was not very “newsie” looking; it looked like a tabloid. So I wanted to make sure we distinguished ourselves as the campus newspaper. Like a student would look at it in the box and be like, “Ok, I can get my news from that.” So we redesigned the new logo and spelled out Forty-Niner again. I think it was a pretty big deal because it looks like the LA Times. You now see it and know that’s a newspaper. We also went back to the long tab, which is a folded paper, so you get that unfolding [feeling].
What legacy do you hope to leave with the Daily Forty-Niner?
I always call this year the transition year. We’ve got a lot of things in place; we’ve probably got a lot of things in place that I won’t be able to finish. So I really just hope that whoever takes over is able to continue what we’ve done here. I’d really like to see the engagement keep building, and our presence in multimedia grow. By going to a weekly [paper] we pushed heavily on restructuring our website and having multimedia components that go beyond just the written article. We have sound and video bites. So I hope my predecessor is someone who has that same vision and keeps that ball rolling, because that’s the way journalism is going.