I’ve got good news and bad news, and I think it’s best to start with the bad.
For anyone paying attention over the last decade or so, it’s no secret that the newspaper business is in trouble — student papers included. As revenue from print advertising falls, many have cut back the number of papers they produce, and some have moved their operations entirely online. The Battalion has not been exempt from this trend.
When I was a freshman, we were printing four days a week. By the time I was a sophomore, we were down to three. And now, as I begin my senior year, The Battalion will be putting out just one paper each week. The tradition of print journalism on Texas A&M’s campus will continue, even if it’s just on Thursdays.
Of course, the decision to become a weekly publication wasn’t entirely due to industry trends. Over the summer, The Battalion lost its advertising manager — a full-time employee of the university whose salary during the previous fiscal year was paid by the Offices of the Dean of Student Life. When it came time for A&M to set its budget for this year, it was decided that it could no longer bear that cost. And so, the position that was largely responsible for putting The Battalion in the black last year was eliminated.
This was somewhat surprising, as last year student media received the endorsement of three student leadership bodies — the Student Affairs Fee Advisory Board, Student Senate and Graduate and Professional Student Government — to receive some additional funding from student fees. This would have covered salaries for our ad manager, general manager and a new graduate assistant position. Though we knew the funds were not guaranteed, it was certainly disappointing to move backward rather than forward.
Not too long ago, student media was supported by six university employees. With the ad manager job gone, we’re down to just one. Our general manager serves as adviser, advocate and now ad salesman.
On the student side, most Battalion staff members are now volunteers. Personally, nothing over the last few years has hurt me more than finding out we would no longer be able to pay the hardworking reporters, photographers and multimedia producers that make The Battalion what it is. And what it is one of the best college papers in the country, if you believe recent award nominations. This year, we’re listed as finalists for eight Pinnacle awards from the College Media Association, including 4-year daily newspaper of the year.
That brings me to the good news. In our newsroom, we’re doing everything we can to seize the opportunities our recent challenges have presented. So while our decision to go weekly may have been motivated by financial difficulties, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, plenty of other college media outlets have made similar moves and are all the better for it.
So while The Battalion will only be sent to the newsstands on Thursdays, we’ll be working to make what you find on those stands even more informative and engaging. And every other day of the week, you can find our stories in their true home online. Whether you subscribe to our newsletter, visit TheBatt.com’s homepage or follow our social media feeds, The Battalion remains digitally daily. And when a news outlet really lives online, the possibilities for creative storytelling and up-to-the-minute coverage are limitless.
On the financial side, we are grateful for the many people who have stepped up to help. A gala in March celebrating The Battalion’s 125th year of publication raised over $16,000 in ticket sales and silent auction purchases. Other efforts are in the works — including a new nonprofit called Friends of The Battalion — and our preexisting account with the Texas A&M Foundation is open to receive donations at tx.ag/battfund from anyone who cares about this long-standing tradition.
There are plenty of other ways to support student media too — even if it’s just checking out the website or picking up the paper on Thursdays. If you’re a student, we’re always looking for new staff members, and this year especially, we’re looking to build a paid student ad sales team from the ground up. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by our office in L400 of the MSC.
We’re also transitioning from part of a department to a student organization, which could open up more opportunities for funding and collaboration in the future.
We still believe, as we always have, that tenacious, independent student journalism is vital to any campus. And no matter what lies ahead, we’re going to do whatever we can to provide that at A&M.