Financial woes force Howard U. paper to go online-only for rest of spring semester

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The advisory board of Howard University’sstudent paper voted Wednesday to allow the Hilltop to publish online-onlyissues for the rest of the semester. The board voted in early March to haltprinting when it discovered the paper owed $48,000 in fall semester printingcosts.

But Hilltop Editor in Chief Drew Costley said he is unhappy with theboard’s decision and said some board members do not support a dailyHilltop, which transitioned from weekly publication in 2005. The advisoryboard, which governs the paper, is composed of nine student leaders and eightfaculty and university staff.

“I disagree with the decision completely,” said Costley, who is a boardmember but was not present at Wednesday’s meeting, of the move to online-onlypublication. “My concern is that they have to train the business staff in how togenerate online advertising revenue. None of them know anything about onlineadvertising.”

Although the Hilltop has received outside help from organizationsand alumni in paying its debt to its printer, The Washington Times,Costley said the paper still owes about $18,000. He discovered in December thepaper’s business staff had not been sending invoices to advertisers for over amonth, which caused about $40,000 in lost revenue. The Hilltop, whichreceives over 60 percent of its funding from the university and the rest from adsales, had not seen enough of an increase in university funding since it movedto daily publication to stay afloat financially, Costley said.

“We’ve been skating on thin ice since the newspaper started as a dailypublication,” he said.

Costley also told Black College Wire last week that $20,000 was missingfrom the paper’s account. But he told the Student Press Law Center on Fridaythat he was told only $9,000 is now unaccounted for.

The Student Affairs office will continue paying for the paper’s staffsalaries while the Hilltop is published online and will pay the costs ofprinting a graduation edition of the paper at the end of the semester. The boardalso formed a subcommittee to look into long-term solutions to the paper’sfinancial problems, said a university spokesman who would not be named.

Costley said he was skeptical that the proposed subcommittee would actuallysolve the Hilltop‘s financial woes. He also believes the board did notfollow proper protocol at the March 6 meeting where it voted to halt publicationof the paper. Board policy requires 11 members to be present at the meeting fora vote to take place. Costley said he only counted 9 members in attendance thatday.

“That’s why I felt there was some foul play in that situation,” he said.”I’m very disgusted with working with the board at this point.”