FLORIDA — A task force organized to solve a funding dispute between student government and student newspaper leaders at Florida Gulf Coast University has arrived at an agreement both sides say could mean a more stable future for the Eagle News.
The agreement — in the form of a non-binding resolution passed Feb. 6 in the university’s student government — will provide more than $40,000 per year for the next three years to fund the Eagle News, said Will Cochran, the newspaper’s editor in chief.
“In this coming year, I look forward to having a better and more professional relationship with the student government,” Cochran said.
An Eagle News task force brought together the leaders from both sides, where they agreed the newspaper should have a new adviser as well as an oversight board composed of students, faculty and community members that will hire the editor in chief — all in exchange for a non-binding resolution agreeing to more stable funding from student government.
Jameson Yingling, SGA’s vice president, acknowledged non-binding resolutions can be amended, but said he is committed to making sure it is not changed in such a way that harms the Eagle News.
“I know that as long as I’m around, I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
The dispute began when student government cut the Eagle News’ funding by almost half last year — from $35,750 to almost $18,700. Then-Editor in Chief Rich Ritterbusch had alleged student government’s actions were in retaliation for information the paper had printed regarding student government’s operating budget.
Yingling said there was “a big misperception” about SGA’s motivation for cutting the Eagle News’ funds, including that the cuts were a result of the editorial content of the newspaper.
“Some of the business practices, how [the Eagle News] spent their money and just a few other ethical concerns we had, we wanted to be cleaned up before we appropriated any more funding,” Yingling said.
The task force was organized by James Rollo, the university’s vice president of student affairs, to compare the Eagle News to similar newspapers at peer universities and to review the relationship between the Eagle News and student government, Yingling said.
Cochran said the result was the non-binding resolution to base the Eagle News’ funding on a certain dollar amount for every credit hour taken by students at the school.
Cochran said the Eagle News is also planning to become independent from student government funding in the next three to five years, when he says the newspaper might be better able to “stand on its own two feet.”
“I believe there are always issues when you have a student government who is giving funds to the student newspaper, and then the paper is required to criticize the student government,” Cochran said.
The university has not provided a timeframe for selecting either a media adviser or organizing the oversight board, Cochran said.
By Tim Hoffine, SPLC staff writer