Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a time and date of the open Collegian Task Fore meeting.
We don’t know what the future holds for The Collegian. We wish we did.
At a time when newspapers are faced with a tough reality of increasing digital content, The Collegian, Fresno State’s student-run newspaper, has its own story of struggle. Here’s why.
As we produce a bi-weekly newspaper and a daily news site, The Collegian is attempting to survive in today’s economy with the revenue models it has held on to for years – declining advertising and a student fee that has not risen in years.
Last month, a request to move the financial manager position within The Collegian to the media, communications and journalism department was turned down. That position would have freed up thousands of dollars that could go toward Collegian operations. And lately, other proposals like asking the university to provide updated newsroom infrastructure have been sidelined.
ASI President Blake Zante, in recent memos, has stated that he is open to explore ways a future student government administration could help in funding the student paper. His term as student body president is up in May.
In other attempts to address the viability of The Collegian, a governing board has now been reestablished. Not long ago, Collegian General Manager Rich Marshall confirmed all voting members of the board.
Though it cannot make specific decisions on what is published in The Collegian, due to the law, the governing board still has much authority over The Collegian’s operation.
For example, a governing document states the board is capable of removing the executive editor. That’s a lot of power. Most importantly, and specific to our current focus, this board is capable of resolving conflicts with budget or operations of the student newspaper.
Among the voting members is Zante; Julia Nolasco, an MCJ student recommended by The Collegian’s editorial board; and Nancy Barragan, an MCJ student recommended by the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.
The other voting members are: Dr. Carolyn Coon, chair of the board and dean of students; Patti Waid, representing the office of University President Dr. Joseph Castro and director of university communications; and Dr. Katherine Adams, chair of the MCJ department.
Why the governing board ever stopped meeting is a question best left to those who formerly filled the seats. A meeting can be called by virtually any voting member, but members have come and gone over the years. We think there has been a lack of concern for The Collegian for several years.
With the possibility that a majority vote in the governing board could have the executive editor removed, and with the paper’s uncertain finances, there is no doubt that this board should meet regularly.
Now that the board has gotten its members in line, we would expect that a meeting would take place immediately. However, an email from the board’s chair suggests that a meeting is not imminent, even with all members confirmed.
Coon, the chair, stated recently that she did not have “any information” regarding an upcoming meeting. It’s almost as if there is apathy among some board members toward The Collegian’s crisis.
But Coon, rightfully so, may be allowing the policy-making bureaucracy to play itself out. However, given the stress this financial strain may cause for The Collegian in the very near future, addressing this matter should be top priority. A well-funded and well-staffed student newspaper is critical for a vibrant university campus.
And there is no doubt that The Collegian is a complex operation. The digital age has made things even harder. It’s important to note that several experts within the department could very well provide the needed recommendations the board needs to get moving.
We understand that the MCJ department has appointed a task force, made up of faculty members, to reform the business model and philosophical approach of The Collegian. The task force has already met once to discuss The Collegian’s future.
Aside from an unclear outcome from the discussions so far, we think that the start of this process was backwards. The governing board should have appointed the task force with a set of marching orders. Then, the task force’s recommendations could be presented to the governing board.
But, what counts at this late stage of the game is that the task force is at least meeting. And we at The Collegian have high hopes that the task force will exhibit speed, courage and outside-the-box thinking to find possible solutions that could keep this publication alive in this new world.
The task force has scheduled to meet on April 3 at 10 a.m., likely in Speech Arts 32. The meeting is open to the public.
In the end, the structure and operation of The Collegian could well be altered by the decisions that will be made in the coming months – whether directly from the task force, the board or the university.
We may soon be producing more digital media projects and less print. Many of us still find value in print. We could well become an online-only publication. Already, our staff is producing podcasts and video projects to deliver news and information to students through different platforms. Our goal is to never stop bringing you, the student, the news you need.
As our readers and valued stakeholders, there is value in speaking up for The Collegian’s future. Your student fees pay for so much of our operating bill that it would be silly not to seek your input in this challenging, but exciting, process.
The voice of students should be included in the task force’s report, which will likely end up in the governing board’s hands.
Fresno State students – The Collegian belongs to you. Speak up.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of Collegian editors.