Can the Aggie Be Saved?: New Deal to Restart UC Davis Paper Called ‘Fairly Unprecedented’

A unique arrangement with a local newspaper may enable The California Aggie to come back to life, in print. The longtime student paper at the University of California, Davis, has not published a print edition since March due to a gigantic financial mess.

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 received — had simultaneously dropped. And the outlet had also shifted from an almost-daily (four times per week) to a weekly in print to help offset costs.

This past semester, UC Davis students overwhelmingly approved a mandatory fees increase to help support the paper. But student leaders subsequently intervened, rejecting the measure due to what they said were “procedural problems” with how it was created and rolled out.

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

But now it’s the Vacaville Reporter to the (planned) rescue. In a move that one UC Davis journalism professor calls “fairly unprecedented,” the Aggie “is poised to sign a deal with the Vacaville Reporter, which would print the Aggie in exchange for the right to sell advertising.”

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Some of the details, according to The Sacramento Bee: The agreement may become official as early as this week. The Aggie may then be back in print as soon as this summer. In terms of sheer space, the editorial-ad split in the paper may be 50/50. And Aggie staffers will remain in their current unpaid state under the new arrangement, while retaining editorial independence.

Orpina tells the Bee she is also confident she can make this decision about the paper’s future independently — without the involvement of student government representatives or university administrators. Does UC Davis agree? A spokesman: “That’s a legal question that’s very complicated.” The Bee: “It’s unclear whether student staff have the authority to negotiate a pact with an outside publisher. The Aggie operates as a unit of the Associated Students of UC Davis, which in turn is a department of the university.”

Beyond issues of control, there are questions of fairness. The big one: Is it OK to have students working for free for the profit of an outside organization — even if the deal would involve a service rendered (printing the paper) and provide students a “living laboratory” to gain real-world experience?

One of the candidates to take over as Aggie editor-in-chief in the fall: “The idea that a company is making money from students’ labor and not giving any of it back leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Yet, as a former EIC of the paper puts it, taking a wider-angle lens: “Any plan to save the Aggie is a good plan.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/03/6376491/uc-davis-student-newspaper-poised.html#storylink=cpy

What do you think?

Related

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

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

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