Student Media Fee at SIUC Delayed: ‘Almost Certainly Means End of the Daily Egyptian’

The Board of Trustees at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will not approve a student media fee meant to support the Daily Egyptian student newspaper for at least a year. The delay may be crippling to the nearly 100-year-old campus pub.

The $9-per-semester-per-student charge is being sought “to combat rising deficits in the Daily Egyptian’s budget.” The SIUC student government approved it in December after some haggling.

One student senator’s take at the time: “Some of the students I represent originally had concerns about paying the $9 fee per semester. It is a small price to pay to maintain that issues, particularly relevant to students, are reported. The Daily Egyptian offers a unique opportunity to every student on campus. When students were made more educated on what the DE does and can offer them, students rallied to support it.”

1The fee proposal is the first time in the paper’s history it has requested any type of school funding — relying in the past solely on print and online advertising revenue. The DE sports a payroll of roughly $500,000, paying all its student workers and boasting five professional staff.

Apparently at a meeting this morning, the board will ask the university president’s office to provide some measure of financial support for the next year — until trustees reconvene on whether to approve the student media fee.

So why the hold-up? Will the prez have enough to cover the DE’s “rising deficits”? Will the fee be approved after this yearlong delay? And what does this mean for the paper, in the short term and long term?

Daily Egyptian faculty managing editor Eric Fidler: “I’m not certain that the board has fully considered the ramifications of putting [the fee] off for a year. It almost certainly means the end of the Daily Egyptian and, not too long after the end of the Daily Egyptian, I believe you’ll see the end of the School of Journalism.” Yowza.

1

In a column at the start of the week, DE editor-in-chief Kayli Plotner stresses the significance of student media. She reminds readers that — among other achievements this past year — the paper successfully scooped all professional press and the school’s PR arm on confirming the identity of the new university president.

Bottom line, as Plotner puts it: “Whether it’s sports, or politics, or environmental issues, a college campus thrives because of its students, and those students have an invaluable voice. While journalism is an evolving field, it is far from dead. Student journalism is essential to the success of a college campus. Students are the core of a university; without us, the faculty, administration, coaches and buildings themselves would be entirely useless. The Daily Egyptian has been the voice of the SIU student body for nearly 100 years, and it needs to stay that way.”

Her words sparked in my memory a similarly spirited DE editorial from fall 2008, something I wrote about near the start of this blog. According to a Daily Egyptian staffer way back then:

“Student journalists work here for a few years at most, hit their peaks, graduate and move on to sunnier pastures and bigger papers. But the DE is definitely not ‘just’ a student newspaper, at least not to almost everyone who works here. Don’t believe me? Ask the delivery people for any local restaurant what they see when they bring food to our newsroom (which happens multiple times a night). There are people laughing, fighting, debating, helping each other, doing homework, playing music, watching TV, talking about politics and sports and pop culture and occasionally sleeping on top of some filing cabinets. None of us are here because of the paycheck, which hardly covers the cost of all the food we have delivered. All of us are here because we love what we do, which is bringing the news to you.”

Comments are closed.