The 99 Cent Solution? UC Irvine Students to Vote on Future of Campus Newspaper

Would you pay 99 cents per term to keep your campus newspaper in print?

Students at the University of California, Irvine are set to answer that question. They are voting this week on a measure that would add 99 cents to their individual student fees each quarter ($2.97 per year) so their paper of record can continue to appear in bins across campus.

New University has apparently endured a financial bloodletting in recent years due to rising printing costs.  As staff explain in a special page on the paper’s website, “[W]e have reduced the number of pages and color per issue (from 60 pages in 2007 to 24 in 2013), cut our full-time administrative staff and reduced pay (went from four full-time staff members in 2008 to one in 2013), and reduced student Editorial Board stipends by 50 precent in 2013, along with a pay cut for student workers in the advertising department. In short, our spending has been at a ‘barebones’ minimum for the past three years to sustain the paper, but this method will only last for so long. Asking for student support is our last option.”

I admit, I’m left to wonder: Why is this considered the last option?  Wouldn’t a reinvention involving a beefed-up digital presence (the website is already hella nice) and a reduced print schedule possibly be a much more successful option in the long-run for both staff and readers?

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New University editor-in-chief Jessica Pratt tells the Los Angeles Times that unless a majority of UC Irvine students vote to approve the 99-cent fee, the paper may cease to exist in hard copy form in any frequency in only a year.

Features editor Logan Payne opines separately in a pass-the-measure pitch, “With a lack of a published paper, helping spread the death of print journalism all the way to our college campus, it would make us the only UC school without a paper and would take away our voices– as students, as writers, as curious minds, as engaged members on campus, the list could go on.”

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He argues there is an especially high need for a trustworthy campus news source in the face of the planned weekly section of The Orange County Register that will focus on UC Irvine– and feature a heavy ad buy from the university.

As Payne ponders, “[H]ow can the OC Register report objective and fair news when they have PR representatives feeding them content all while the university pays them for ad space? . . . At the New University, who has no deal inked with the University other than the space we occupy on the third floor of Gateway and the recently halved pay that we receive, we are able to be fully objective and independent from the University.

Comments
5 Responses to “The 99 Cent Solution? UC Irvine Students to Vote on Future of Campus Newspaper”
  1. Bryan Murley says:

    It seems that what they’re really asking for is a subscription (and a cheap one at that), which makes sense. A majority of college newspapers that are “free” have some sort of financial buy-in from the university they serve.

  2. Unless the students can opt-out of paying the fee, it’s a shakedown, not a subscription. Fully independent? Really? Does the newspaper pay rent? Who selects the chief editor? Any university officials on the governing board? Incorporated?

  3. From New University’s website: it’s the “official” newspaper. That’s a bad word in collegemediatopia.

    • Phuc says:

      Michael (and others),

      The chief editor is selected by an election process by the newspaper’s staff every year. We work with two professional staff members (who are not administrators) that facilitate our publishing and liaise with the student government. We are independent of the university’s administration and our revenue comes solely from advertisement, save for the referendum that we passed. We receive absolutely no funding from university administration, save for when they buy ad space to promote certain events.

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