It is difficult to believe that nearly a year ago, The Daily Californian staff set out on Sproul Plaza asking students to start paying for a newspaper that had been free since its inception in 1871.
At the time, the paper was facing a substantial structural deficit. The potential for new revenues was dim, as was the paper’s future.
We decided to turn to our peers and placed a referendum, the V.O.I.C.E. initiative, on the 2012 ASUC general election ballot asking students whether they approve of a $2 semesterly fee to support the newspaper. Students passed the fee, with 5,977 voting in favor and 4,054 voting against, guaranteeing the Daily Cal an estimated $93,800 annually for five years.
In June 2012, the Daily Cal signed an agreement with the campus describing the process for the transfer of V.O.I.C.E. funds for the fall 2012 semester. Recognizing the ASUC’s interest in distributing all student fee funds used by registered student organizations, we signed the agreement with the intention of signing a new one with the ASUC for the remaining four and a half years of the initiative.
Last week, we signed an agreement with the ASUC that fully protects our independence and ensures the student fee money will continue to directly support the newspaper that students have enjoyed for more than 140 years.
Due to the student fee funds and other cost-cutting measures — including the elimination of professional staff, the move to a rent-free office and a deal with our printer that is saving us around $10,000 annually — we are no longer grappling with a sizable structural deficit. Our latest financials from February show an operating deficit of just $8,000.
But our future is still unclear.
During my tenure as editor in chief and president, it has become increasingly apparent that, at the Daily Cal, we can no longer sustain our print and online products in their current form due to a serious decline in print advertising in recent years. It is time to change the way we operate as a news outlet, and thanks to V.O.I.C.E., we have the time to do so.
Since September, the Daily Cal’s board of directors and current student employees have been working together to construct a Strategic Plan to guide the paper over the next three to five years. My hope is that through this process, we will be able to create a sustainable business model in which we will no longer depend on V.O.I.C.E. money, all while continuing to deliver information that the students and our surrounding community deserve.
Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] with any questions, concerns and feedback about the agreement or the newspaper. Our door is always open to you.
Editor in Chief & President
Below I have included the agreement between the ASUC and the Daily Cal that describes the process for the transfer of V.O.I.C.E. funds to the newspaper. As per its term concerning disclosure, the agreement was printed in its entirety on page 6 of our March 21 edition.
Stephanie Baer is the editor in chief and president. Contact her at [email protected]