I remember sitting in the Daily Cal’s conference room during the fall semester of 2008. I was gathered there with my fellow sportswriters for our bi-weekly meeting.
At the end of the meeting, the sports editor at the time, Matt, said that he had some bad news to share with us. Being the smug son of a bitch I was, I sarcastically said, “Is our pay getting completely cut?”
Matt responded, “Actually, it is.”
I’d say around that time was rock bottom for the Daily Cal.
It was the first time in however many years that the Daily Cal would not be paying writers. And unlike other student newspapers across the country, you can’t get course credit by writing for the Daily Cal. To compound the problem, ad sales were dropping faster than Busta Rhymes spits a verse.
Even worse, the Daily Cal was doing very little to alter its content in the hopes of pulling more readers. The Daily Cal’s tone was far too professional. The people in charge of the Daily Cal had trouble acknowledging that students were the ones picking up the newspaper, not professionals commuting to work on BART.
In the last piece I ever wrote for the Daily Cal (affectionately known as the “Fuck You” column) I voiced my collective displeasure about the newspaper’s operations. For those of you who recall my writing, you can imagine that I often battled with the Daily Cal head honchos over what I could and couldn’t print. My argument time and time again was that we’re not writing for Grandma; we’re writing for you, me and that kid hanging out on Sproul.
So why am I here now encouraging you to vote in favor of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative? Well, it’s because I can honestly say that the current staffers at the Daily Cal are starting to get it; they’re starting to understand how to reach the average student. The Daily Cal Street Style is a prime example of what I’m referring to. Look at pictures of what other people are wearing? Don’t mind if I do.
I’ve also become a fan of the blog posts from the sports department, which feature a much more conversational tone. It now feels like my roommate is talking to me about Cal sports instead of a 60-year-old writer who has been jaded by his profession’s crumbling prospects.
And have you checked out the videos? Occasionally there’s techno music playing during the intro — I can get down to that.
Best of all, the online version is lookin’ spiffy. Believe it or not, the Daily Cal’s website is a lot easier to navigate than some of the websites put out by large metropolitan newspapers.
The problem is that just like Rome, this bigger, badder Daily Cal can’t be built in a day’s time — or in the span of a couple semesters, for that matter. But by spending $2 to support the Daily Cal, you’re giving this student newspaper the opportunity to come into its own.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment. If you don’t take advantage of it, undergraduate journalism at UC Berkeley will take a hit from which it may never be able to recover.
From a more practical standpoint, losing the Daily Cal means you’re losing your campus watchdog. I’m not saying we’ve got Bernstein and Woodward on standby to break the next Watergate, but one of the Daily Cal’s primary functions is to keep the university in check.
The writers of the op-ed “Let the Daily Cal stand on its own” didn’t exactly comprehend what it means when the Daily Cal said it’s independent. They argued that if V.O.I.C.E. were to pass, the Daily Cal would no longer be independent since “an implicit contract is created between the student body and the newspaper.”
Huh? What does that even mean? Should the Daily Cal stop running ads in order to be independent from commercial interests?
Let’s back up here. The Daily Cal considers itself “independent” because it’s independent of the university’s administrators. That is to say that no editorial content has to be approved by someone in the chancellor’s office before it makes its way to newsstands because the Daily Cal receives no money from the university.
The purpose of the Daily Cal is to elevate the voice of the student. It’s a newspaper created by students, consumed by students and, in part, funded by students.
In that same op-ed, its writers went on to state how unfair it would be to charge all students $2 to support a newspaper that not every student would read. Really? Is this really where you guys are going to make your stand?
Why don’t you start with the billions of dollars spent on corn subsidies? Or heck, how about the $65 each student gets charged to support around 850 athletes?
And if after all these carefully orchestrated sentences I have yet to unstraddle you from the fence, forget not the amount of money the Daily Cal saves you. That’s right, I said it — the Daily Cal saves you money.
$2 for a year’s supply of Sudoku and crossword puzzles? Damn. Now that’s one helluva bargain.
Mustafa Shaikh is a former writer for The Daily Californian. He wrote for the Clog, sports and opinion sections.