Facing Life-or-Death Funding Crisis, Missouri Student Newspaper Saved By School Officials

The University of Missouri-St. Louis will cover the tens of thousands of dollars in debt accrued by The Current student newspaper and provide it with additional funding next fall — enabling it to “start over fresh.”

On spec, it is a happy-feel-good solution to a melodrama that began earlier this semester when the UMSL student government announced it was slashing its funding for the Current during the next school year to $0. That’s right — literally nada, zip, zilch. Yowza.

By comparison, the nearly 50-year-old weekly paper is receiving $19,000 from the SG this year and its EIC had requested $29,000 for 2014-’15. To explain the sudden massive cut, the student government reps cited concerns about mismanaged funds and the aforementioned debt.

Without any funding, the paper’s future has been hanging in the balance. The school’s Student Activities Board Committee denied an appeal. So on Monday the Current leadership sat down directly with top UMSL administrators — a move that appears to have been successful.

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The details of this lifeline arrangement are still being worked out. The Riverfront Times reports the debt forgiveness will total roughly $40,000, while the Student Press Law Center says it’s closer to $20,000.

According to the Times, Current editors “are preparing a budget to submit to UMSL chancellor Tom George. In exchange for a more stable funding source, the Current would bring on staff advisers, including a business adviser, and offer scholarships to student reporters instead of salaries.”

The SPLC confirms additional cost-saving measures are being implemented by the paper: “For some examples, the Current has cut most paid staff positions and has not made any recent software purchases. … The paper has been redesigned to a smaller format, and students also often pay for office supplies and other general expenses out of pocket. ‘We’re operating as bare bones as we could,” [business manager Cate Marquis] said. ‘We limit the pages and color in the paper every week.'”

Comments
One Response to “Facing Life-or-Death Funding Crisis, Missouri Student Newspaper Saved By School Officials”
  1. The Current says:

    You might want to update your story with some fresher information from The Current – http://thecurrent-online.com/news/umsl-newspaper-survives-closure-threat. The original debt was indeed nearly $40,000 but in the past two years, the paper had paid off about half of that amount. The financial difficulties were less due to mismanagement by the present staff than by the mismanagement that occurred in 2009-2011, when 2 editors greatly overspent their budgets, and aggravated by the burdensome debt payments and funding cuts imposed after their departure (although the people who had incurred the debt were long gone and de facto excused from any responsibility for their actions). Since then, The Current has become a lean and efficient operation that covers the campus well given the much reduced staff and lack of funds to replace aging equipment. Ad sales have risen every year since a financial low point in 2011-2012 and costs have fallen every year since the “big spenders’ ” exit. The removal of this old debt plus removing the campus newspaper’s budget from control by other students, some of whom see no need for any campus newspapers, gives The Current a much rosier future, a fact not truly reflected in your article. The present staff at The Current did not create the debt (although we paid off a significant portion of it) and there is no way we are going to repeat the mistakes of those two mis-managers. We learned well from THEIR mistakes.