UC Merced student newspaper to lose only source of funding

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UC Merced’s student newspaper, The Prodigy, could lose all of its funding from the Associated Students of UC Merced, or ASUCM, becoming the next publication on a UC campus to go head-to-head with its student government.

CC Gillespie, who was previously selected as The Prodigy’s next editor in chief, recently met with ASUCM Internal Vice President Jason Braun to discuss the relationship between the two organizations. During the meeting, Gillespie was informed that The Prodigy was not listed on the ASUCM budget release form, which means its funding request for the upcoming year had been denied.

Earlier this month, staff members of UCLA’s Daily Bruin went on strike after their student government overruled the paper’s recommendation for its next editor in chief. These conflicts between student governments and campus publications have raised concerns about the independence of student journalists.

“The current balance of the … finance accounts contain just enough money to get us through the semester, and possibly through the end of the summer, but after that we will be unable to support our website fees,” said an official statement released by The Prodigy. “By next semester, it is unlikely that we will be able to keep The Prodigy website up.”

According to its 2019-20 budget proposal, the paper requested $2,320 in funding from the ASUCM. Almost half of that sum was intended to go toward maintaining The Prodigy’s website upkeep, with the rest covering camera and staff equipment, among other expenses.

The Prodigy is considered a service of the ASUCM and depends almost entirely upon it for funding. It currently neither raises funds nor receives advertisement revenue from its website.

“The Prodigy itself has been going through a lot of leadership changes the last few years,” said Marcus Fox, the current editor in chief of The Prodigy. “(We) haven’t been writing as much.”

This inactivity is part of what sparked the ASUCM to take The Prodigy off the budget this semester, according to Braun. He added that the ASUCM wants to divert its funds to other causes.

Fox said there has “always been a bit of turmoil” between The Prodigy and the ASUCM, going back to the founding members of the paper. Although the paper was revamped years ago, the ASUCM has “preconceived notions about The Prodigy,” Fox said, which makes it difficult for the two organizations to work well together.

Incoming ASUCM Senator At-Large Grady Thomson said the ASUCM has undergone a lot of structural changes this year, which led to increased miscommunication and less attention paid to the paper.

Braun said he will be fully endorsing The Prodigy’s case for funding and writing a resolution in support of the newspaper. He is currently working with the incoming senators to improve the relationship with the paper.

Some of the incoming ASUCM senators have voiced their support for the paper and are exploring other funding streams for it to stay afloat.

The Inter Club Council, or ICC, at UC Merced can also allot funding for different clubs and organizations on campus. ICC bylaws allow for the funding of The Prodigy, if so requested, according to Thomson.

“Any student newspaper is crucial to student government,” Braun said. “Without a newspaper, we really can’t put officials in check — that’s why I really believe we need an operating Prodigy.”

Contact Marlena Tavernier-Fine at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarlenaTF_DC.