By: Nu Yang
With declining advertising revenue and rising printing costs, college newspapers around the country are experiencing the same struggles as their professional counterparts.
University of California-Irvine’s weekly student newspaper New University recently sought approval of a new quarterly student fee to generate the revenue needed to continue printing. According to the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper shrunk from 60 pages to 24 pages in the last six years, and editors’ compensation was cut in half. UCI students came together at the ballot box in April to approve the proposed fee. According to The Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.), more than 72 percent of student voters approved the fee, which amounts to about $3 per year per student.
“We’re still going to be working like we don’t have a lot of money,” the newspaper’s student editor Jessica Pratt told the Pilot. “This revenue is basically going to cover printing costs and everything else is going into reserves.”
At Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., student voters approved a new student media fee to save their paper. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, the fee will increase tuition for every undergraduate student by $5 per semester to support three on-campus media groups: the Western Herald student newspaper, WIDR-FM radio station, and the Young Broadcasters of Tomorrow. The Gazette reported that about 63 percent of students voted for the fee, which is expected to generate an estimated $125,000 per semester for the three student media groups, which will merge into an umbrella organization sharing resources, equipment, and staff.
“We have a strong communication program,” said Herald general manager Richard Junger. “I think (the students) didn’t want to lose the paper because they know it’s a big part of the community.”
Junger said it was “encouraging” to see students come together to save college media, and it gives student journalists an idea of the challenges that lie ahead of them. “Journalism is busy reinventing itself and these students are a part of it.”
Meanwhile, Edinboro (Pa.) University’s student newspaper The Spectator is facing proposed budget cuts that would reduce funding from the current level of $48,000 per school year to just less than $24,000 for 2013-14, according to the Erie Times-News. The cuts could mean eliminating pay for the paper’s 12 paid staff members and a reduction in printing schedule.
The Times-News reported the cuts (which also affect Edinboro’s student radio station and television station) are part of larger cutbacks being made by the university’s student government, which is in charge of disbursing money collected by a student activity fee paid by students.
The Daily Egyptian at Southern Illinois University is also in danger of folding if it doesn’t receive financial help. According to The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, Ill., Daily Egyptian reporter and former editor-in-chief Tara Kulash recently told college administrators the student newspaper needs $55,000 to make it through the summer. She asked the administration to consider enacting a fee of $5 per student per semester to help the paper cover costs.
The Illinoisan reported that journalism school director Bill Freivogel told the university’s board the paper’s independent status was a treasured asset. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve tried very hard not to ask for a fee,” he said. “We’re just finding ourselves in a position we need to ask for help.