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Editorial: Our newspaper is dying

April 4, 2018

In 2000, UT threatened our journalistic freedom to report stories, prompting us to become independent. Eighteen years later, our presence to remain in print is being threatened. To put it simply, the Independent Collegian is dying.

Despite the tireless efforts of our students and staff, we are not making enough money from ad revenue to survive.

 

This is the last thing we want to happen, yet it’s the only thing that will happen if we don’t receive any support. We care about our newspaper, but more than that, we care about truth-seeking journalism, a priority in today’s era of fake news.

 

Our staff commits to the IC week after week without any pay — something that has been sacrificed within the last semester — for nothing more, but their passion for journalism.

 

Although this seems like it came up fast, funding has been an issue for a long time coming for the IC and other college newspapers around the country.

 

According the Collegian Media Foundation: Projections and Analysis for the future plan, in 2000, the Collegian’s advertising revenue was roughly $190,000 to $200,000. This doesn’t take into account how $30,000 of potential revenue went uncollected by the staff due to poor collection procedures.

 

If the Collegian had sufficient plans to allocate their funds eighteen years ago, we would not find ourselves in this place today. A place where our newspaper is dying.

 

The decline in ad revenue has further contributed to this problem and only made our suffering worse. This is an issue campus newspapers are struggling with nationwide.

 

The IC has personally increased our efforts to create new advertisement opportunities for local businesses and while some have helped to support us, more and more businesses opt to use social media to get the word out. This has led us to find different ways to support ourselves.

 

Our research has uncovered a startling fact: we are far from alone in this struggle. So many college newspapers have gone under from lack of funding and many more have had to cut printing.

 

The Daily Targum at Rutgers, for example, supports its operation through student fees since the university doesn’t fund them. Every three years, the school holds a referendum in which students vote whether to keep the Targum fee on their term bills or not, business manager of the Targum Rachel DeSimone said.

 

The fee is $11.25 per student per semester and is adjusted every year in relation to printing and delivery expenses. At the beginning of each semester students can email the business manager for a refund of the Targum fee if they don't wish to support the paper. This is a very long tedious process that takes weeks and on average, they receive at least 800 to 900 refund requests a semester.

 

The New University newspaper at the University of California at Irvine also has student fee. According to Editor-in-Chief of New University Megan Cole, the paper ran their first student fee referendum in 2013, for 99 cents per student, per quarter.

 

They proposed the fee to their student government and they voted to put the referendum on the ballot for UCI's yearly spring elections. The group had to receive at least 60 percent “yes” votes for the fee to go into effect. Since 33 percent of all student fees have to go into a financial aid fund, this referendum leaves their paper with about $60,000 per year.

 

Unfortunately, that student fee lasted only five years and is set to expire this June. Cole said they tried each year for the past three years to renew the fees and wanted to increase it to $3 to account for inflation and ad-revenue loss.

 

Sadly, they haven’t been able to pass it yet. Last year, the group received 54 percent “yes” votes, which was just short of the 60 percent needed.

 

“We’re trying to get it on the ballot one last time for this spring’s election, but if it fails to pass again, we’re going to have to cut our print paper and go all-digital next year,” Cole said.

 

At the moment, this could be the best idea for the IC. We could petition for a student supported fund, with an opt-in or opt-out option, that would allow us to remain independent. This is our dream solution.

 

But right now, it is not an option. A state tuition freeze by the state of Ohio won’t allow this, no matter how desperate we are.

 

We’ve put plenty of thought into this. Trust us, we don’t make any decisions lightly. But if we can’t find any new revenues of funding ourselves, find an increase in advertisements or find a mysterious benefactor, the IC will be no longer just after our 100th year.

 

We need your help. Our readers — the UT community and UT students — can help us to save ourselves. This is our plea. We need your local business to advertise with us. We want you to share our Kickstarter — and donate to it if you can.

 

This is us, as journalists, being very transparent with our readers. This is us, asking you to support our journalistic freedom on reporting. This is us asking for your help.

 

 

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