This fall, a strange silence has fallen over a Web site that long amplified the voices of hundreds of student newspapers.
UWIRE, a popular service that aggregated articles from student newspapers across the country, promoting student journalism both within higher education and to the outside world, has disappeared. Visits to the Web site in October returned a “problem loading page” message. Student newspapers that relied on the service to republish articles from other newspapers haven’t heard a word. Student editors who were paid to scour campus papers to find content for the site received an abrupt e-mail message on October 4 telling them the site was being “temporarily suspended” but offering no explanation as to why. They still haven’t received payment for their work in September, some said.
Those who operate UWIRE, which was founded in 1994 and facilitated content sharing among 850 college media outlets, won’t comment on why the site is gone and say only that they hope to relaunch it soon. Some of the nine student editors who worked most closely with UWIRE employees say they suspect financial problems may have contributed to the abrupt collapse.
“I did kind of always question, How are we making money’” said Andrew Reuter, a student at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville who had worked for UWIRE since January 2007. “I guess I should have asked more questions.”
In a recent e-mail message to one student editor who demanded to be paid, Tom Orr, UWIRE’s general manager, referred him to the service’s written statement on its suspension. “Short of just sending out that same exact e-mail every day, there’s really nothing I’m able to update anyone on,” Mr. Orr wrote.
When reached on the phone, a lawyer for the company that owns UWIRE, Palestra.net, declined to comment.
The site was a staple in the world of college newspapers, giving student reporters a wider audience for their work and keeping them abreast of issues at other colleges and universities. Articles selected for the site were also occasionally featured on the Web sites of mainstream news outlets like CBS.
The organization seemed to have high turnover; one student editor said he had four supervisors in five years working with the service. Still, UWIRE was trying to boost its national profile, for instance, by launching last year the UWIRE 100, a list of the 100 best student journalists in the country.
CBS used to own UWIRE, but sold the site to Palestra.net, another college news network service, in March. That month, Joe Weasel, chief executive of Palestra.net, said in an interview with a college media blog that the new ownership wouldn’t change UWIRE drastically.
“For the most part, the mechanics of how UWIRE works will remain,” he said.