Texas President Cuts Secret Deal, Shifts Daily Texan Under Communication College Control

The Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin has been named the new home of Texas Student Media (TSM), the organization overseeing a number of student publications and broadcast outlets including The Daily Texan.

The shift for TSM and the Texan is sudden, presents lots of questions and appears to have happened cloak-and-dagger. The TSM board and Texan staff, alumni and supporters were not informed about it or sought out for input. It has prompted mixed reactions from members of those constituencies. Texas Student Media had previously been aligned with student affairs at the university.

As I’ve previously posted, the Daily Texan has been stuck in a gargantuan financial hole in recent semesters. Lots of short-term and long-term solutions and stop-gaps have been debated and a few implemented. In-fighting has been brutally public at times, most notably the vehement criticism of Texan alumni over a proposal to reduce publication of the daily paper to four times per week in print.

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Will the move to Moody help? Even the college dean Roderick Hart has no real clue at this point. He tells the Texan that he brought TSM into the fold at the express request of the university president; he has no related experience or big ideas; and is unsure what the next step is now that the college has acquired it except to hopefully raise some money.

Hart’s take:

“All I can say is the president called me over to his office. That was it. I don’t know anything about the TSM Board, or what its procedures are. … There are just a lot of unknowns. The president and I both agreed that we have to have a functioning fundraising operation, and that’ll be really helpful. … It’s something I haven’t really had a chance to get my teeth into. It’s in a very sort of still-working-it-out stage.”

I give the guy credit for candor, but yikes. So if there’s no real sense of direction, at least for now, why did the UT prez head in this direction? No one can say for sure — including TSM board president Dave Player. According to the Texan, the board was left out of the loop entirely on this dramatic shift.

In his words, “No one ever contacted me about it from the administration, or from the communication school. This is how much they value student input: not at all.”

Two biggest questions at the moment: What does this mean for the financial future of the Texan and other TSM outlets? And what does it mean for students’ editorial independence? The latter is especially key. As TSM describes itself, “We are the ‘Uncensored Voice’ of the United States’ largest student body — the University of Texas at Austin.”

Related

Daily Texan’s ‘Hard Times’ a Microcosm of College Media at the Moment

Daily Texan Adviser to Resign, Cites Frustration with Student Media Board’s Lack of Vision & Continued Cuts

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

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