The ongoing primer Southwestern College journalism students are receiving has more to do with nickels and dimes than commas and quotes.
Like real-world reporters across the country, staff at The Southwestern College Sun worry they may not get to print another issue. But unlike their post-college colleagues, Sun reporters aren’t facing layoffs or the shuttering of hallowed newsrooms. If they miss printing another edition before summer it’ll be because they ran out of the money the college allotted them this fiscal year. Once next year’s budget is set, The Sun will print again.
Lately The Sun has been struggling to stay afloat. In March The Star-News published a story indicating the college newspaper had already blown through the $13,900 it had allotted for printing costs alone. What did that money buy them? Three issues and one eight-page special section this entire school year. At the time newspaper staff was busy planning a fundraiser to get another issue out to the campus this spring.
Actually, it seems The Sun has been struggling for a while. During fiscal year 2012, the newspaper was allotted $30,579 by the college. It generated $6,741.55 in revenue. But it incurred $42,432.66 in expenses (including $26,134.17 in printing costs and $14,664.50 on field trips), meaning it went over budget by $5,112.11.
It’s one thing to have those kinds of figures when you’re a private entity, as is The Star-News and most other newspapers operating today. But when you’re a college newspaper and most of your operating budget comes from a public entity like a college, too many blown budgets might make taxpayers wonder where’s the money going? Why is it a struggle to publish more than three newspapers a year?
Earlier this week someone Tweeted that The Sun won’t get support from the college to continue publishing the paper. The college responded that part of a recent issue was paid for with money from the superintendent’s fund.
The lament seems misguided. The college gave them a set amount of money to spend. The paper has spent it. And now the paper wants more. Does newspaper staff have a right to expect more money when they’ve spent what they’ve been given? Do taxpayer’s have a right to know where their money is going? If the college doesn’t donate more money are they anti-freedom of the press? You decide.
But here’s some more unsolicited bloviating my college colleagues can take with a grain of salt. There’s a reason it’s called the news business. It’s a business. You run out of money, your operation shuts down. It’s a hard but necessary lesson one has to learn (especially those who are determined to be in this profession). But in the meantime, hang in there and good luck on your next fundraiser, Thursday, May 23, at South Bay Fish and Grill.