Our Dependent Student Newspaper
Issue   |   Wed, 09/27/2017 - 00:13

The Amherst Student’s editors, writers and staff have long prided ourselves on the independent nature of our student-run newspaper — since 1868, in fact. By “independent,” we mean that The Student was not funded by the school and that our all-volunteer team has worked hard to cover our own costs of printing, shipping to subscribers and distribution. While many other schools’ newspapers either started as school-funded projects or shifted to this model, The Student had managed to maintain its independence.

In recent years, this situation has changed. The slow decline of print media and rise of online readership has been a national and international phenomenon. Across the country, campus newspapers have been hit hard. For The Student, this has meant declining advertising revenue and print subscribership, our two main sources of income.

Over the past few years, The Student’s finances have struggled to break even and periodically relied on discrete, no-strings-attached donations from the Association of Amherst Students (AAS). In the eyes of past editors-in-chief and publishers, this relationship would allow The Student to stay afloat while still maintaining some degree of financial independence.

However, when we — the current editors-in-chief — entered our current roles, we recognized that such a financial model for this paper is unsustainable. We have an outstanding balance with our local printing company, and we have realized that if we fail to seek external funding, even our greatest efforts to fundraise or increase ad revenue would still not be enough.

Along with our head publishers, we reached out to members of the AAS at the end of the Spring 2017 semester, initiating a conversation with AAS Treasurer Jacob Silverman ’19 and Director of Student Activities Paul Gallegos about securing more stable and long-term funding through a source affiliated with the school. Together, we looked at the state of our finances and explored every possibility we had to improve our financial situation.

After these discussions, we formulated a plan that includes securing regular discretionary funding for future operating costs — printing and mailing — while all of The Student’s revenue from advertising, subscriptions and potential fundraising activities will contribute to clearing our outstanding printing balance. If current revenue trends hold, this will be accomplished in three semesters, after which we will hope to secure a budget that includes The Student paying for part of our operating costs with revenue and the Student Activities fund supplying the balance.

Being part of the world of print media is important to us. Our weekly physical issues give us deadlines to meet and pressure to develop the best finished products that we can, while online-only media is less final and permanent. The college has had a strong history of student journalism, with alumni going on to write and edit for renowned publications and newspapers, and we hope to continue adding to that history.

To meet the demands of an increasingly large proportion of The Student’s readership, we are also setting our sights on developing and expanding our online presence. Currently, we are working with student web designers to improve our site’s user-friendliness and mobile functionality.

We don’t make the decision to give up our independence lightly. This is, after all, a tradition that has been carried through many years and valued by scores of student writers and editors before us. We, too, recognize financial independence as an ideal. In order for The Student to continue as a newspaper, however, we’ve realized that this is a step we must take. We want to be transparent with you, our readers, about the process by which this transition is taking place.

Reporting conscientiously on college affairs and providing students a platform for expression has been and continues to be our goal. The fact that we are financially dependent on the college doesn’t change this. Especially in today’s political and social climate, we will continue to value truth and objectivity in reporting and give members of the Amherst community a place to make their voices heard. And as a college newspaper, we will continue to highlight the accomplishments of students, faculty and staff in the arts, sciences, sports and other fields, and their efforts to make this community and the world a better place.

Anonymous Alumni (not verified) says:
Wed, 09/27/2017 - 09:59

It would be useful, in a piece like this, to have some financial context so that those who might want to help The Amherst Student could have an idea of the order of magnitude of costs involved. How much debt are you currently in for your printing costs? Also, roughly how much does it cost to put out an issue, and what is your usual per-issue revenue (i.e., how much of a loss are you typically running per issue?) I don't think people need a detailed budget breakdown, but a sense of scale when reporting on this kind of thing would be helpful.