300 Daily Texan Alumni Criticize Media Board’s Response to Paper’s ‘Life-or-Death Financial Troubles’

Roughly 300 former staffers of The Daily Texan at the University of Texas at Austin have digitally signed an open letter criticizing the Texan’s overseeing board for its handling of the paper’s “life-or-death financial troubles.”  The Texan alumni are especially concerned about the possible elimination of the pub’s daily print edition, calling that pending decision “reactionary, short-sighted, and ill-advised.”

What is not in dispute: While the Texan’s journalistic prowess continues unabated, its economic outlook is in sheer freefall.  As The Austin Chronicle reported last spring, “[T]he student newspaper has become a shell of its former cash-generating juggernaut.  Advertising, distribution, and especially the classifieds revenue has all but evaporated.”

The paper confirmed its dire financial plight in an editorial earlier this week. According to top eds., the lack of revenue has led the Texan’s parent organization– Texas Student Media (TSM)– to consider ending the paper’s daily print run.  The editors disagree with the effectiveness of that plan.

As their editorial argues, “We understand the need to reverse the newspaper’s downward financial spiral, but we believe that reducing the number of days the Texan is printed when print advertising has made up more than 95 percent of the Texan’s annual advertising sales will not accomplish that goal. . . . The printed future of this newspaper should not be dispensed with so quickly and the opportunity to set the Texan on a different course should not be sacrificed along with it.  We need our readers, our professors, and our predecessors to rally for our cause, which is theirs, too.”


The problem, according to the predecessors, is that this rallying cry has not yet been backed up by any active attempts to raise money or receive guidance.

In their letter, the Texan’s large alumni base– including many individuals seemingly still in journalism and some who are real power-players in the media game– refer to themselves as, thus far, “untapped resources.”  And they are concerned that TSM would threaten dramatic changes to the publication they love before they are first given a real chance to help.

A portion of the letter (available for public viewing via a Google Doc, with apparent plans to have it published):

“As alumni of The Daily Texan, we read Tuesday’s editorial with considerable consternation.  Those of us who fondly recall our time toiling in the paper’s basement offices are well aware that times are tough.  For years we have followed the Texan’s declining circulation, its shrinking advertising base, the unfortunate decision to sell the press, the scaled-back publishing schedule– much as a child follows the decline of an aging parent.  Nonetheless, ceasing daily publication of the Texan strikes us as a reactionary, short-sighted, and ill-advised response to the current crisis– one that not only fails to consider the value of tradition and The Daily Texan’s storied history on campus, but, worse, fails to avail itself of the rich resources that tradition itself has produced. . . . Short of the most passive gestures, Texas Student Media has made no clear or sustained attempt at outreach to The Daily Texan’s vast alumni base– neither for guidance nor, most glaringly, for purposes of development. In an era of great experimentation in the capabilities of philanthropic funding models for news media, Texas Student Media has not even bothered tapping a donor base captive to its sepia memories of Daily Texans past.  Therefore, we urge the TSM Board to refrain from further reducing The Daily Texan’s print schedule without first consulting us– Texan alumni. This is not a matter of self-interest on our part; this is a simple matter of availing yourselves of untapped resources.”


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2 Responses to “300 Daily Texan Alumni Criticize Media Board’s Response to Paper’s ‘Life-or-Death Financial Troubles’”
  1. Brent Weber says:

    Reblogged this on Postcards from The Web and commented:
    I am disturbed by the diminishing depth od campus newspapers. It’s still happening here on campus in Norman. The Oklahoma Daily has one or two articles each day on sports, for example. I know the trend/thought is to move away from a printed daily paper. It’s obvious that is the way they are headed here.

    It doesn’t always drive the reader to the counterpart on the Internet. For example, now, with reduced space given to the sports section, instead of reading about OU athletics from the student perspective, when I go on-line I look at the Oklahoman (newsok) or the athletic department site SoonerSports.com. I don’t visit the university paper’s website. Universities should promote literacy at both the electronic and the print level, not abandon one aspect because the audience is shifting.
    Many, many people still prefer print. Papers didn’t go away when radio began. Radio didn’t go away when television came along. And none of the three are irrelevant with the rise of the Net. All have value, even if they are changing in their strengths.
    It’s an argument similar to one I’ve long made about television and the ratings system. Just because a show gets a larger share of the audience to “win” the ratings war, it doesn’t mean the other programs that finish second, third or even last in the ratings are any less valuable to our society. In fact, the quality of their “ratings” may be greater. Popularity in numbers is not the only way we should measure our messages. If so, then we would have nothing but reality television, vampire movies and pornography available for consumers. Wait… maybe that wasn’t the right way to put it.
    But please, people, respect the whole and don’t overvalue the part. AFter all, isn’t that one of the great things about this democracy we live in?

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