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"This is yet another opportunity for our students to make use of a cutting-edge delivery system -- the third version of mobile media delivery we have pioneered," Bacon says. She cites her department's track record: dissemination of The Optimist student newspaper via iPhone in the fall of 2007; adoption of an updated application in the fall of 2008; and now, ACU's preparation for delivery of The Optimist on the iPad this spring.
ACU's nationally recognized and accredited JMC department already has taken the first steps to establish an iPad Task Force. Its goal: to use dedicated faculty and student leaders from across campus to develop The Optimist's new digital publication platform. They will do so in the department's converged media newsroom, one of the only student newsrooms of its kind.
"We pay close attention to the way young people consume news," says ACU's Kenneth Pybus, faculty adviser of The Optimist. "They tend to use all the tools at their disposal to get information. With the iPad, we foresee the potential for an explosion in news consumption."
Professors Pybus and Bacon believe the iPad and its publishing platform will yield a marriage of audio, video and text unseen even since the advent of laptops and smart phones.
"The work we will do leading up to the formal debut of the iPad is an outgrowth of research that's been happening on our campus for three years," says George Saltsman is executive director of ACUâ€™s Adams Center for Teaching and Learning. "Our campus community is already riding the next wave of digital communication. Publishing The Optimist on the iPad means our students will be ready to work with this revolutionary technology in the marketplace the minute they graduate. For some of our students, that day is right around the corner -- so of course they'll have a major jump on not only their peers, but also on veteran software developers nationwide."
The aspect of this software development drive that most fascinates Bacon is how it could revive the publishing sector as a whole, and newspaper publishing specifically.
"The news business must find a way to keep news delivery profitable. Remaking the model for news delivery is the single most important discussion in journalism under way today," she says. â€œIf our students and faculty, by being in the middle of that discussion, can help devise a profitable new delivery system, we will have accomplished something extraordinary.â€