The importance of student press

Anjelica Coliard/Staff

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You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. This rings in my head as students head to the polls to vote on the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative, a $2 per semester student service fee that goes towards filling the hole in The Daily Californian’s budget caused by decreasing advertising revenues as more media switch to digital formats.

The question before us is whether we want the Daily Cal in print on most days of the week or if we want it mostly online with perhaps diminished quality. I’ll get the quality part in a moment.

I will be voting “yes” on the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative on April 10 for the following reasons: First, I believe a free student press and an accessible daily paper is vital to informed dialogue by the campus community.

It is very valuable to have the Daily Cal paper easily accessible on campus. While The Daily Californian is not The New York Times in its quality of articles — it is a student newspaper, after all — it is an important public resource on our campus that keeps students aware of ASUC, sports, university, city, state and national news stories affecting our campus. It also is a space of free speech in columns and opinion pieces (but who reads those anyway?). As an ASUC senator, I turn to the Daily Cal to learn about updates on Operational Excellence or state budget cuts that affect the University of California.

A lot of my work involves increasing sustainability and reducing plastic and paper waste on campus. I’ve worked to transition the campus to only recycled green books and to phase out the sale of plastic water bottles. It might seem contradictory that I am now advocating to keep The Daily Californian newspaper in print.

To this, I will say that when it comes to paper use, I believe newspapers are still a justified way to use tree resources (if sourced correctly, sustainable forestry practice makes trees a renewable resource as well). How else will we learn about the choices of our politicians when it comes to increasing student loan rates while continuing to support subsidies for big oil? If there’s no accessible press, we won’t have the information to act.

Now, should V.O.I.C.E. pass, I urge the Daily Cal to re-examine their current printer company and ensure they’re up to par with the most sustainable practices in the industry. They should make every effort to be as green of a newspaper as possible.

“We could just read it online,” some say. True. However, having papers available around campus is still the most accessible form of news that is proven to increase readership by many students who might not seek out the headlines online. Apathy is a disease that will not be eradicated anytime soon, but chosen ignorance is much more destructive.

Therefore, paying $4 per year, to me, seems like a reasonable fee to have a more informed student body. This is also considering that the cost of The New York Times Sunday edition is $6. With the return-to-aid portion, $2 per semester is a manageable fee with a big benefit. You just bought a $5 subway sandwich — wouldn’t it be nice to read a paper with it (say no to the plastic bag, though, and carry the sandwich, please)?

The Daily Californian is undergoing a lot of the same pressures that the newspaper industry is going through. Decreased advertising sales are leading to massive layoffs and therefore an increased burden on a smaller staff of reporters to cover the same amount of stories. While many papers are moving onto the digital platform, aided by Internet and tablet technology, we are still seeing the quality of the free press under increasing strain. The Daily Cal had to stop paying its reporters years ago as revenues decreased.

However, I fear that the quality of the paper could diminish further if V.O.I.C.E. does not pass. To many of you, this might be unthinkable given how bad the current quality is, right? Well, you won’t know what you have till it’s gone, my friend. We actually have one of the top ranked student newspapers in the nation.

Ultimately, The Daily Californian will move out of print. The V.O.I.C.E. Initiative is just a life vest to keep print alive for five more years (at least) and allow the Daily Cal to move out of print in a better way.

Tuition and student fees — and the debt that comes with them — are crippling us as a generation. We need to make sure we have a press that will continue to cover corruption in the global economy, in our country and on our campus.

A responsible vote as a citizen of the campus community is to vote “yes” on V.O.I.C.E.

Elliot Goldstein is an ASUC senator with the Cooperative Movement party and an independent candidate for ASUC president.

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  • MilesOfSomething

     That you even drew a comparison between the Daily Cal and the New York Times is laughable.

    •  Yes, but they do have something in common. Unlike the National Enquirer, which apparently requires at least 2 independent verifiable sources, both the Daily Cal and NYT have a reputation of putting fabricated BS in print, and passing off opinion as news articles…

  • Too regularly abused by the DC

    If the Daily Cal didn’t have such a regular and routine bias, misquote people and carry on with skewed news – I’d be voting  yes. I’m all for the idea of student discussion and informed student body, but quite frankly, that’s not what the Daily Cal does. 

  • Chris Fox

    Beautiful!  Keep up the good work!

  • *

    There are a lot of things wrong with this assessment. 

    Despite the claims of the DC campaigners on campus, the DC is not going
    to crumble or disappear without student registration funds.  As an
    independent organization that operates without accountability to the Cal
    community, it technically shouldn’t even be eligible for such funds.

    Exactly how many problems is this money supposed to address?  First it’s to fill a budget gap, then it’s to expand their business, then it’s to increase the quality of the paper.  So what are we paying for if we give you money?  I don’t think more money is going to improve the quality of the writing.  Why should students have to pay the DC to make their writers do better work, and secondly how is throwing money at the DC going to improve the writing?  If there’s a budget gap, how do you expect to expand at the same time you are filling a hole created by not adapting to the changing media landscape?

    In addition, if this op-ed cheerfully asserts that the quality of the paper’s writing
    is sub par, and that people generally accept that it is not well
    written and needs to improve, then by whose standards is it simultaneously “one of the top ranked student
    newspapers in the nation.”  Top ranked in what exactly?  The Princeton Review of the best college newspapers doesn’t even have DC in their list of the top 20, while the papers from the Universities of North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Wisconsin-Madison, Kansas, Florida, Maryland, Texas A&M, along with Yale, Cornell and Northwestern make the cut.

    If the DC were truly a student-run publication, and not one run by paid professionals (whose salaries the DC is also not sharing, for obvious reasons), it wouldn’t be an issue that they stopped paying student reporters.  All the other publications, whose budgets are transparent and require approval before they are granted funds from the University, work without pay.  None of the students working on a student publication get paid to provide the same service the DC does, so I don’t understand why them cutting some pay years ago is supposed to convince me that DC needs to ask students for money now.  If you weren’t paying professionals who have no ties to the university, a large part of your debt would vanish.

    The tenor of this article suggests that DC is the only source of news for Cal students, and that print editions are the best and most easily accessible source of information on campus.  “How else will we learn about the choices of our politicians when it
    comes to increasing student loan rates while continuing to support
    subsidies for big oil? If there’s no accessible press, we won’t have the
    information to act…We need to make sure we have a press that will continue to cover
    corruption in the global economy, in our country and on our campus”: these statements are a direct slap in the face to all of the many student publications that do exactly this, and from a variety of informed perspectives that truly represents the diversity of the student community at Cal.  It also ignores the reality that many students get their news from a variety of media formats.

    I would still like to see some print edition left, but severely reduced in number.  Why would DC not invest better to furnish the population with vital news in the formats that most people actually use?  The environmental talk here is little more than a red herring.  We already know trees are a renewable resource, but to say “if sourced correctly, sustainable forestry practice makes trees a renewable resource as well” is incredibly deceptive since I’m not aware of any trees that grow quickly enough to accommodate the ecological footprint made by print practices that exceed the growth rate of the source for paper.  Also, considering that LOTS of printed editions currently go untouched, it is untruthful to claim that printing way too many copies are the best way to reach the student body. 

    You’re creative people, come up with creative solutions to sustain readership.  It’s a challenge you should welcome, not one you should ask for a bailout to avoid, so as to continue doing business as normal when it is economically imprudent. 

    When asked about their plans to make this shift to online, those at the Daily Cal admitted that they had not actually made any plans, other than developing this referendum to bilk funds from students and to continue overprinting.  When asked why they would continue printing far more paper issues than are ever collected, they admitted that it was because they get a price break for the number they print, and they would have to pay more per issue if they printed less.  Of course they could not deny that by printing fewer paper copies they would indeed be spending less money (regardless of changing printers to get better paper for cheaper prices, printing fewer copies would save even more money).  So the natural question is, with a supposedly crippling budget deficit, why is it a problem to spend less money to reduce the deficit by cutting down on wasteful expenditures?  They did not have an answer to that question except to reiterate that they get a price break for larger orders, even after they acknowledged that it was not cost-effective to do so. 

    Most egregiously, the name of the referendum was meant to refer to all the voices on our campus.  The “C” is supposed to stand for community.  One voice does not “a community” make.  When asked why the Daily Cal would keep the name even after they eliminated any benefit to the actual student publications from the initiative, the response was merely that they had already printed campaign materials and wouldn’t spend the money to print new ones that honestly reflected the new purpose of the initiative to support ONLY the DC, and not the community of Cal publications.  It is misleading to use this name (which is why most of the DC coverage of THEIR OWN CAMPAIGN conveniently fails to mention what the letters stand for).  The graphs and charts they’ve provided elsewhere don’t give any real information as to how this money will be used, nor does it demonstrate need.  How does a student newspaper that takes in almost $700,000 in revenue, and hundreds of thousands in alumni donations, need hundreds of thousands more to do work that at least 41 student publications currently accomplish on a SHARED budget of $50,000 per year?  It is also misleading to suggest that these publications were the initial inspiration for V.O.I.C.E. when DC drafted it without the publications community input, and didn’t ask for said input until very late in the game.  Combined with the fact that on campus campaigners are telling people to “Save the Daily Cal – Vote Yes on V.O.I.C.E.” as if it will go out of business without this money, I feel incredibly uneasy about what their intentions really are and what they will do in 5 years when they still haven’t solved their inability to follow a workable budget.

    As a last note, in regards to the amount of the fee and student spending.  A student buying lunch has a choice to buy that $5 Subway sandwich.  The choice not to buy a sandwich would not result in them still owing some money for it.  But this initiative would force students who do not agree that they should have to pay for DC to print too many copies (and pay professionals for work students already provide), to do exactly that.  It would be like Subway asking people to pay a fee even if they don’t want a sandwich that day.  How is that reasonable?

    •  In my opinion giving them more money will diminish the quality of the writing.

      Think about how much money they have spent on this campaign already, compared to the No on V.O.I.C.E. campaign which has a total budget of 0$.

      If you think the No on V.O.I.C.E. campaign has a stronger message and stronger campaign strategy, consider the fact that we have had to use our brains to get our message across, not our wallets.

      Giving the Daily Cal a crutch to stand has the potential to give them less incentive to actually work on the quality of their content. The members of other publications do their work because they want to be good at what they do, not because they have any obligation to fill a budget deficit.

      The purpose of an educational institution should be to promote innovation and give students the skills they need to go out to the world and make a significant contribution.

  • I_h8_disqus

    The chickens may be coming home to roost.  If VOICE is voted down, it is because the Daily Cal has failed to provide students with a paper that reflects their needs.  The editor might be wishing that he tried to make the paper more inclusive.

  • Myles Moscato

    I also found these ASUC by-laws pertaining to student fees. From the language of these, it seems to me like this referendum is illegal.

    I suggest student government officials look into this, to assure that this initiative adheres to the fundamental principles we set up for our university to assure that all students have fair and equal representation.

  • Myles Moscato

    The main issue I have with this is that you state that cutting print is the only way for the Daily Cal to independently make up it’s budget deficit.

    According to the pro VOICE website, the student pay roll budget in the Daily Cal is is higher than the deficit they are facing. Many Daily Cal people I have talked to argue that “we don’t even get paid that much”. If they in fact don’t get paid that much, then it seems like they should be willing to cut their pay to save their newspaper.

    If they do in fact care about their organization that much, they should be willing to make sacrifices. Many other members of publications make sacrifices and we don’t get paid for the very hard work we put into our organizations. Organizations whose sole purpose is provide education and voices for students on this campus.

    Where is the referendum to support those people?

    • Myles Moscato

      Another note:

      You state “I believe a free student press and an accessible daily paper is vital to informed dialogue by the campus community.”

      I don’t think the Daily Cal has been acting in the way a journalistic entity should in the coverage of VOICE. A few days ago they took out a full page ad in their newspaper telling people how to vote. An ad they probably funded from their own bank account. One has to wonder how much money they have actually spent on this campaign.

      They are not informing dialogue, they are persuading it.

  • Stan De San Diego

    Some of us might be more sympathetic to the Daily Cal’s fiscal plight if we sincerely believed you were interested in a more informed student body. However, a perusal of your on-line edition makes it clear that the Daily Cal is more of an outlet for radical student groups, free advertisement for local political activists, mealy-mouth spin from the admin and regents, and the usual drivel from the mediocre talents who think their stream-of-consciousness-recovering-from-weekend-partying blathering will make them the next Hemingway. We can save the trees, at least the screen savers on our laptops make effective night lights…