Daily Texan staff, alumni speak out about proposed budget cuts

TEXAS — Daily Texan staff and alumni are speaking out against a proposed budget cut that would cost the paper a day of printing each week to make up for declining ad sales.

A Texas Student Media proposed budget for the 2013 school year shows a proposed 30 percent cut to the University of Texas paper’s printing expenses. The cut would mean printing four-days-per-week in the fall and spring semesters, as opposed to the current five-days-per-week schedule.

If this cut is passed, Daily Texan Editor-in-Chief Susannah Jacob said she believes this would be the first time in 100 years that the paper hasn’t printed five-days-a-week during the school year. The paper became daily in 1913, she said.

However, in an email Monday, Texas Student Media Director Jalah Goette said other options are being considered.

“I want to stress that a decrease in publications days has been only one of many options under preliminary review to address the ongoing decline in advertising revenue industry wide,” Goette wrote. “Texas Student Media has already taken many other steps in recent years to address these changing dynamics.”

Goette declined to comment on what other options are under review. Board chairman David Verduzco could not be reached for comment either. In an editorial published last week, The Daily Texan said staff have tried but had difficulty getting information from Goette and others about specific options being considered.

In a letter to the board, Goette called the proposed budget “a ‘middle-of-the-road’ approach.” The board is expected to discuss the options at a meeting Friday.

Daily Texan Editorial Adviser Doug Warren said Goette was asked by the media board to come up with $200,000 in cuts, noting that The Daily Texan budget is “very limited in where you can cut.”

“What we need to do is find new revenue streams that will help ease our reliance on both print advertising and online advertising,” Warren said.

The Daily Texan editorial last week called on the paper’s audience to “step up and take the newspaper’s destiny into their own hands.” Saying that 95 percent of the paper’s revenue comes from print advertising, the editorial argued that cutting days won’t help to right the paper’s financial situation.

The editorial inspired 2005-06 Daily Texan Editor-in-Chief A.J. Bauer to post an open letter to the Texas Student Media Board of Directors online last week. Bauer served as president of the board that became the Texas Student Media board from 2006-07 and is also a former member of the Student Press Law Center’s board of directors.

The letter asks the TSM Board to turn to the “untapped resources” of Texan alumni before cutting down on the newspaper’s production. Since the paper’s plea, Bauer said a group of supporters have started trying to form a more permanent organization called “Friends of the Texan.”

While the organization’s mission has not yet been determined, Bauer said he hopes it will be a source of support for The Daily Texan staff. A website for the organization, texanfriends.org, is slated to go live. Wednesday.

The open letter, signed by more than 300 people, will also be featured in a full-page ad in The Daily Texan Wednesday. A fundraiser on crowdtilt.com had gathered $4,208 as of Tuesday to cover the cost of the ad. More ads will be bought with the remaining money, according to the fundraising website.

Jacob said the support of the letter and those who signed it has “buoyed” her staff.

“We are so moved by the support that they have come out to offer us when they are no longer themselves staff members of the paper,” Jacob said. “Moving forward I hope that the alumni organization grows into a strong real organization – that would be my hope and it’s one I look forward to joining when I graduate shortly.”

Warren said he hopes the alumni will help to provide funding The Daily Texan can count on long-term as well as networking opportunities for students.

“I’d much rather see it be a consistent stream rather than an emotional tsunami,” Warren said. “I’ve been here three years and I’ve gotten very little input from the alumni … except in times of crisis.”

Overall, Warren said he believes The Daily Texan has to adapt to today’s news industry, and that the print schedule is not the most important piece of the picture.

“I think we need to be willing to try things and make sure that we’re willing to do the most important thing, which is maintain the educational experience for the students,” he said. “That’s the key thing here much more than revenue streams or print schedules.”

By Sara Tirrito, SPLC staff writer. Contact Tirrito by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 124.