Student paper concerned about news rack policy at Florida

FLORIDA From free to fee and color to black-and-whitenewsstands, the University of Florida is attempting to flip the script oncampus distribution of publications and the student newspaper isn’t letting thechanges go unchallenged.

The IndependentFlorida Alligator, fearfulthat changes to the campus distribution policy will have negative impacts onits readership and branding, is in talks with university officials to alter theregulation.

UF Vice President forBusiness Affairs Ed Poppell and university counsel met with members of the Alligator and its attorney, Thomas Julin, on Friday to talk about these concerns andpossible remedies. The result: a plan to implement the regulation on a smallerscale and look for any negative effects.

Pursuant to a board oftrustees regulation, this fall the universitywill start requiring all publications to be distributed from black,modular units on campus.

The new units, blackwith multiple publication slots, are a major shift from the Alligator’scurrent stands that are bright orange and blue, pull-down racks with thepaper’s logo on the front and back.

The goals of theuniversity are to create a safer environment and a streamlined publicationdistribution center, university spokeswoman Jenine Sikes said.

“Their haphazardplacement can be a danger to pedestrians, drivers and bikers,” Sikes said. “[Themodular units] are safer, they look better and they can certainly growdepending on if we have additional publications.”

The university’sgoals, however, are possible roadblocks to the Alligator’s efforts toincrease readership and maintain a brand identity. The paper argues that thenew units will be populated with other publications and won’t be eye-catchingto readers.

Approved in December2009, the Board of Trustees regulation also requires the Alligator topay a fee per distribution slot on campus. In years previous, the newspaper wasallowed to maintain racks on campus for free.

The Alligatoris a daily student newspaper that became completely independent from theuniversity in 1973.

“We are the studentvoice. It comes down to dollars and cents. We paid for those. Now, when we areputting these in, we would have to pay,” current AlligatorEditor-in-Chief C.J. Pruner said.

“We see right now thatwe don’t know how that is going to affect us, with circulation and ad sales. Ifeel it is the administration going to the casino and playing with the house’smoney. We are the only ones being put at risk.”

Julin, with Hunton& Williams law firm, said the rental rate is $50 per slot each year— amounting to $3,800 per year for the Alligator to maintain itspresence at 76 locations on campus.

With the regulation,the Alligator will also lose its investment in all of its currentnewspaper racks.

In Friday’s meeting,however, Julin said university officials proposed crediting the Alligatorfor the racks that the new regulation renders useless. That credit would gotoward rental fees the university charges for the required use of the blackmodular units.

That proposal has notbeen officially approved, however, and Julin said many of the exact details arenot official, though he does not doubt that the university will follow through.

“The thing is that wehave to come to a consensus,” Pruner said. “I just want to stress that thisisn’t an us-versus-them thing. This is definitely a misunderstanding, but I amconfident that we are — at the end of the day — going to work something out.”

Sikes echoed Pruner’ssentiments on behalf of the university.

“We are 100 percentbehind the Alligator and we recognize the great value they are to ourcampus and our students. They are part of our proud and strong Gatorculture,” Sikes said.

Future meetings havenot been scheduled though Julin said more meetings will be held.