In budget woes, can student tuition save Nevada’s college papers? – Nevada Independent

once a week, scarlet and gray free press Between 500 and 800 prints were distributed widely on UNLV’s Las Vegas campus. Once a week, the student newspaper’s editor, Vanessa Marie Booth, personally hauls the copies to the newsstands in an electric golf cart.

Booth said she wouldn’t mind taking the job if there were no delivery staff — even if it would add extra stress to the full-time student’s workload. But a month ago, she said, the golf cart — which was bigger than most 25-year-old college students — broke down.

“We were like, ‘How are we going to get our news out on campus?'” Booth said, referring to piles of fresh newsprint bundled together. “They were so heavy, I basically had to push the golf cart myself. Up a hill. It wasn’t a fun experience.”

The cart was later repaired at a cost of $800. But that’s just the latest in a series of budgetary conundrums for a paper allocating $6,000 for an operating budget.

Employees have been unable to purchase new office printers since 2015, Booth said. High printing costs lead to fewer pages and lower throughput. Phone lines and web hosting collide with employee perks, leaving students—many of whom depend on student newspaper bylines for professional placements—underpaid and stranded.

“When we return in person [from COVID], we can’t run at full capacity,” Booth said. “We have a lot of students who work for us for free, but we can’t hire them because we don’t have enough positions. We have a number of positions that have just been discontinued or put on hold due to financial pressures. “

This Scarlet and Gray Free Press, Previous the cry of rebellion, Existing before UNLV became UNLV, publishing its first issue in 1955 for the nascent Nevada Southern University. Like student papers across the country, the medium serves as a niche in the city’s journalism, a test bed for emerging writers and journalists, closer than any other to the lives of tens of thousands of college students. Export.

With such a distance, scarlet and gray Tracked unrest within the student union (the undergraduate president resigned after being recalled last month), a push for better campus parking (a long-running controversy for any student with a car) and rogue campus cats.

But 67 years later, the paper is one of many student-run campus outlets that have seen a reliable pillar of advertising revenue crumble. The losses left unanswered questions about how the paper would continue to operate after years of budget cuts.

Today’s existential crisis is not a first for newspapers. Notably, the outlet was embroiled in a brief budget spat in 2016 after seeing a sharp cut in university funding, part of a broader debate over the name change — rebel yell – which is still implicitly linked to the common imagery of the Confederates when the University was founded.

Later, the newly named scarlet and gray See what it costs to print by contacting the las vegas review magazine, in addition to a $20,000 annual grant from the state’s largest metro daily. Overall, the budget is between $60,000 and $80,000 per year, with the remainder provided by the University’s Student Life Financial Aid Committee.

But college funding has continued to decline sharply in recent years. The Funding Committee recently provided $100,000 in 2016, but this funding allocation was first reduced to $60,000 and then again to $40,000. Then, for a short time, the free-to-print deal also disappeared last winter.

“We had to find $20,000 within two weeks,” Booth said.

Enter: student fees.

On Wednesday, November 30, 2022, there was a pile of scarlet and gray at the end of the desk in the UNLV student newspaper office. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

On Friday, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Trustees will vote to charge UNLV students a $0.20-per-credit hour fee designed to fully fund Scarlet and gray. Multiply that by the credit load of more than 29,000 students, and the projected annual net income is nearly $140,000—roughly double the current budget.

According to Booth, the proposal — nearly 12 months in the making — has the support not only of student journalism advocates, but also UNLV’s undergraduate student union, graduate student association and top administrators.

Booth and others have described the move as a push for long-term financial solvency, a permanent funding solution that is immune to the ebb and flow of advertising, student representatives and individual university administrations.

“There are other fees — students pay hundreds of dollars a semester,” Booth said. “At 20 cents per credit, I don’t think it’s a great price to pay for something so important.”

Booth has now expanded her lobbying efforts to include individual directors. But it’s not just those at UNLV who are waiting with bated breath for how the board will vote.

Beyond UNLV

Using per-credit student fees to fund student journalism is nothing new, and there has been a clear boost over the past decade—both in the wake of the Great Recession and amid rapidly declining print advertising revenues.

The student media industry mirrors a broader breakdown in newspaper journalism. According to the Pew Research Center, industry ad revenue fell 62% between 2008 and 2018, while employment in print newsrooms halved.

But the use of such fees would be novel in Nevada, where two of the largest student papers at UNLV and UNR have long relied entirely on advertising to keep university administrators and student government at arm’s length from editorial decisions.

Over the past decade, both university papers—both published weekly and, until recently, both in print and online—have felt the financial strain of the collapse of the print business model.exist Nevada sagebrush At UNR, for example — where advertising dollars rather than any university money have long sustained operations — budget cuts have gotten even more dire.

Print advertising, in particular, has long commanded far higher rates from local advertisers than its online counterparts, a dynamic that hastened a budget crisis as sage – which also largely has no direct funding relationship with the student union or the university’s journalism school – stopped printing physical issues after its printers shut down during the pandemic. This situation forced it to switch to online-only publishing for the first time in its nearly 130-year history.

Now, the newspaper operates on a cadre of volunteer writers on a budget a fraction of its former glory. According to Mike Higdon, sage Alumni who have recently committed to helping fundraise as part of the Save the Wormwood initiative, Sage’s In the late 2000s, the budget for advertising sales alone peaked at $150,000.

Today, the newspaper’s editor, Emerson Drewes, said the annual budget is just $30,000, with another $62,000 in reserve.

“Money we desperately need,” sage Editor Emerson Drewes says. “If we don’t raise enough money, we’ll be gone in two years.”

While UNLV’s student fee push has been presented to the Board of Trustees, a similar push is underway at UNR and, if realized, could fund not only newspapers but also student radio, magazines and independent literary journals.

The push could be months away from a board vote as sage UNR and other student media advocates hope to get funding from the undergraduate student union—not a guarantee, given the often adversarial relationship between student representatives and the newspapers that cover them.

But looking at how the board will respond to UNLV’s student fees, Drewes said the vote “means everything.”

“If they don’t make it through UNLV, what does that mean to us?” she said.

But what if the Prince Regent really spelled out the cost? “It’s definitely going to be a ray of hope,” Drews said.

If the charge fails, or scarlet and gray or end up as wormwood, It’s unclear what’s next, especially as the digital advertising environment remains uneven and staffing levels remain low.

“To anyone who says ‘go find new advertising opportunities, go find new strategies,’ I urge them to help us,” Drewes said. “We really can’t afford to spend any more manpower than we already have.”

Editor’s Note: This story was edited by Assistant Editors Michelle Rindels and Jackie Valley. Editor Elizabeth Thompson was not involved in the editorial process because she has provided strategic advice to Nevada Sagebrush. Additionally, journalist Jacob Solis is a former editor of The Nevada Sagebrush.

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