The News Of Newspapers
This time last year, the New University was in the process of getting a student fee referendum on the ballot for spring quarter elections. We asked students to pay $0.99 in student fees to help fund the newspaper. We pleaded with students, explaining that a referendum was necessary in order to continue operating. Thankfully, a majority of students that voted in the election decided to support our initiative.
We weren’t the first or last UC student newspaper to ask the students for assistance to stay afloat. Publications including the Daily Californian (UC Berkeley) and the Daily Bruin (UCLA) have passed fee initiatives to sustain their newspapers. This year, UC Davis’ newspaper, The California Aggie, is asking students to pass a similar ballot measure. With a decline in advertising revenue and the changing industry of journalism, The Aggie is urging students to pay $9.30 a year in order to keep this 99-year-old institution alive. This price may seem startling to some, but the fee would generate close to $300,000 annually and would be enough to bring the paper back to its former standards. In 2008, The Aggie used to pay every staff member and printed 12,000 copies per day, five days a week. Now, only editors receive a small stipend and the paper has been cut down to a weekly in order to save costs. These budget cuts have been crippling to The Aggie — less writers are attracted to an unpaid job, and advertising opportunities have been lost because some clients will ask for daily ads, but The Aggie can only provide weekly ones. In order to fix these issues, The Aggie has determined that they need to change their business model from ad based to community supported.
This new model has definitely received some criticism — people have been questioning why they should donate to a dying institution that struggles to sell ads, and why The Aggie doesn’t go entirely digital. It’s no secret that print journalism is on the decline, but for school newspapers, the transition into a digital age where print may no longer exist is far more impactful.
When publications on the national or global scale go out of print or shift the majority of their content to digital, that changes the way their readership gets their news, but such large publications hardly aim to serve. Student newspapers have more of a sense of duty than national/corporate owned publications do. Our purpose is to create a paper that serves —one that is for the students and by the students.
In a time when local publications can’t be trusted with thoroughly reporting and informing students about their university, that responsibility falls on our shoulders. Without university newspapers, we’re left with “university sponsored content” in publications like the OC Register at best and administration newsletters at worst. Removing student-run newspapers from the campus culture of any university changes things. We do our best to hold administration and student government accountable by reporting on issues that affect students. Not to discredit several student leaders that take it upon themselves to promote transparency within our university system, but college papers are organizationally meant to inform students. Without such an outlet, there is no knowing whether or not students have an outlet to keep up with news about their school, or learn about university policy, or express their opinions in print.
Just think what would have happened if The Aggie hadn’t been there to report on the infamous pepper spray incident of 2011. This act received international attention and led to a serious reevaluation of student rights and activism. If reporters and photographers from The Aggie hadn’t honestly portrayed that day’s horrifying actions, who knows how that situation would have been covered. It undoubtedly would have been ignored in university-sponsored publications, and local newspapers wouldn’t have been as authentic or thorough because they wouldn’t have had actual students there to witness the happenings. Student media is the only way to ensure campus events, controversies, and everything else in between are accurately reported.
We can’t let this vital institution disappear just because students are upset over a $10 fee increase. We know that times are tough and students have to be very cognizant of where their money is going, but this fee is worth it. We support our fellow UC journalists and their mission to keep campus news by the students, for the students.
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