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The importance of student press

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APRIL 06, 2012

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.

APRIL 06, 2012

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