Out of Money, California Aggie Becomes ‘Volunteer-Based, All-Digital Newspaper’

Facing enormous financial difficulties, editors of The California Aggie have decided to “halt all print production” and cease staff pay for the rest of spring semester. It leaves the University of California, Davis — at least temporarily — as the only school in the UC system without a print student newspaper.

As I previously posted, over the past five years, the Aggie’s advertising revenue has been in absolute free-fall, depleting its budget reserves from a half million dollars to less than $20,000. The number of paid staffers — and the amount they receive — had simultaneously dropped. And the paper had also shifted from an almost-daily (four times per week) to a weekly in print to help offset costs.

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Aggie staffers had hoped the pub could remain in print and at least partially right itself financially through the approval of a campus-wide increase in annual student fees. As The Davis Enterprise reported last month, “[T]he student newspaper staff is asking its fellow UC Davis students to approve a $3.10-per-quarter fee that would raise an estimated $272,800 annually. For the measure to succeed, 20 percent of the student body must vote — and 60 percent plus one must support it. If it fails, the 99-year-old paper will die.”

The vote passed. But student leaders intervened last week, rejecting the measure due to what they claim are “procedural problems” with how it was created and rolled out.

The result? According to Aggie editor-in-chief Elizabeth Orpina: “We’re going to become a volunteer-based, all-digital newspaper.”

As she explained to readers in a letter published last Thursday as part of the paper’s final print edition:

“We’ll still be publishing news online and updating our social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) as if we had a printed edition of our paper. … [B]y eliminating expenses, we now have the time to reorganize the staff, approach projects we never had time for and have the conversations that need to happen with regard to the future of the paper. … It’s an extremely frustrating situation, but we’re not going to spend our time defeated and disappointed. It’s a bittersweet decision, and we hope we have your support. No newspaper should ever have to go through the political wringer that we went through and continue to experience.”

Related

Without $9.30 From Every Student Every Year, UC Davis Campus Newspaper Will Die

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