Though the Daily Nexus, UCSB’s campus paper, has never quite been daily in the truest sense of the word, it became less so this week: In a Thursday staff editorial headlined “Black and White and Dead All Over,” the paper announced that cost-cutting prompted the paper to stop printing its Friday edition, at least until the school’s winter quarter ends in March. According to Nexus publications director Jerry Roberts, the decision will save almost $15,000 this quarter in costs related to printing and distribution.
The editorial noted that although the paper is not worse off this year than it was in early 2008, a 15 percent rise in production costs and an 8 percent decrease in ad-based revenue indicate that the publication might see hard times ahead, especially when considered in context of the poor national economy. The decision to cut the Friday issue was a precautionary budget measure.
This year’s editor in chief, David Ferry, explained that the paper wouldn’t be abandoning its reporting duties completely, however: a small group of online-exclusive stories would be appearing on the paper’s Web site. That’s exactly what happened this Friday morning, though students stranded on campus and looking to kill half an hour between classes might find this to be little consolation - especially if they had already tackled Thursday’s crossword puzzle. “We’re still at the moment saving production dollars,” Ferry said of the online Friday stories. “Today, we’re getting three to four news articles as opposed to five or six [that might appear in print.]”
Roberts - who, it should be noted, writes a political column for The Independent - said he hoped the paper would embrace the concept of online-only stories and not keep the amount of Friday stories to a minimum to keep expenses down. “In fact, we’re looking at it as an opportunity to expand live online coverage for Fridays,” he said.
Ferry also said that winter quarter is traditionally the slowest as far as ad sales go. Traditionally, the paper brings in only about $48,000 of its annual $750,000 budget from university funding, so slow ad sales would particularly damaging for the overall budget, which has long struggled to pull out of the red.
“The big advantage is that we didn’t have to lay anyone off,” explained Ferry, who went on to say that the mood around the office was more downbeat than one might expect from a bunch of college students who had their work week shorted. “We’re all still here and putting out a paper : No one’s happy about this. And no one’s given up on getting the [Friday] print edition back,” he said. “It’s certainly no fun, but it’s something I guess I’ll be getting used to if I’m going to be in journalism.”
The Daily Nexus office sits beneath UCSB’s iconic Storke Tower, along with offices for the campus radio station, KCSB, and the school’s yearbook office. These other institutions aren’t taking nearly as bad of a hit however. Roberts said the budget for the yearbook is unaffected, as it generates its own revenue through yearbook sales and ad sales in addition to $48,000 in funding generated by student fees.
Elizabeth Robinson, the associate director of media for Associated Students, UCSB’s student government group, said KCSB is “doing fine.” The non-commercial station generates 75 percent of its annual budget largely from lock-in fees - a sort of per-head, per-quarter tax on students that previous classes of UCSB attendees have voted into place and which can benefit all manner of campus extracurriculars - so, as Robinson explained it, the station would only be in financial danger if enrollment at UCSB dropped. The next largest source of KCSB’s funding is its annual pledge drive, which was suspended in November as a result of the Tea Fire and which is scheduled to resume in early February.
Upon being asked if she knew of other campus-based publications that might be anticipating budget troubles as large as what Nexus staffers are fearing, Robinson said that she had not heard that any had. Publications such as the Associated Students newspaper The Bottom Line, alumni magazine Coastlines, and faculty newsletter93106 do not rely on advertising revenue nearly as heavily as the Nexus.