University Leader not lost, temporarily relocated online
This will be the first and last issue of the semester for the University Leader.
Following last year’s Student Government Association Allocations process, the paper faced a serious budget cut.
The Leader requested $52,250 for the 2012-13 school year. After looking at estimated base salaries and to-date expenditures for salaries, the Allocations committee cut the amount to $29,015.45.
Once the bill reached the Senate floor, the topic of excess papers on campus became an issue. A $9,250 cut to the publishing fee was then recommended by Sen. Tyler Clark, senior, and approved by a majority vote.
Clark has denied he moved for the cut and declined to comment further.
“I think the funding cut was a huge mistake, it was a careless cut. They don’t think people read us and I don’t know why,” said senior Molly Walter, Editor-in-Chief of the Leader.
It also was proposed the Leader be printed twice monthly rather than once a week to cut down on excess papers.
However, the Leader is in a multi-year contract with the Hays Daily News that is in effect until Aug. 15, 2015.
The contract stipulates that the Leader print once a week for 16 weeks during the fall semester and 15 during the spring semester.
“The senate did not know there was a multi-year contract, and typically we don’t allow organizations to enter into multi-year contracts because we fund individual years and we can’t guarantee that the money will be there,” said senior Jessica Tormey, who served as Allocations chairwoman last year.
She was on the committee for a year before becoming the chairwoman, a position she held for two years. She is currently the treasurer for the Allocations Committee.
This cut the final funding for the Leader to $19,765.45 for the 2012-13 school year.
The projected advertising income for the 2012-13 school year was $15,000. The first se- mester total for ad sales was $5,953.55, about $1,500 below the projected numbers for the first semester.
With the budget constraints and lack of advertising, the paper can no longer afford to run a print edition for the remainder of the semester.
“I think people will be upset, but not upset enough to do anything about it. I think that is a glaring issue with society; they put their issues on Facebook, then go on with their life,” Walter said.
Former students who have worked at the Leader have had little difficulty finding jobs after graduation.
“Not very many other organizations give the real-world experience and it is proven because tons of people who have worked for the Leader have gone out and gotten jobs because of their time at the paper,” Walter said.
The Hays Daily News has given many former and current members of the Leader jobs after graduation or during their time at Fort Hays State University.
“I think campus newspapers are a critical part of the education one receives at college if they are going into journalism. It is a laboratory or training ground,” said Patrick Lowry, publisher of The Hays Daily News.
The Hays Daily News employs 13 full-time staff members who are Fort Hays graduates. Two current staff members of the Leader work part-time at the Daily, one as a photographer and one as a writer.
“What the Leader does for us is put students out in the public and see where the desire is to work in the field. It is much easier for us to identify who on campus has interest in this craft,” Lowry said. “Without it, we don’t get to see who is interested.”
Responding to a long-rumored online-only version of the University Leader, Lowry questioned its validity in a college environment.
“Going to a digital-only version is fine if that’s what the audience is demanding,” Lowry said. “I don’t see the Leader’s audience demanding that.”
The Leader runs an online version of the paper in conjunction with the printed version.
With the paper’s doors closed for the remainder of the semester, at least, the future remains in question.
“I know that in the professional news business, the integrated model is becoming more a fact of life,” President Edward Hammond said.
Hammond’s plans for the Leader are uncertain at this point.
“I haven’t made up my mind,” Hammond said. “I don’t know what the answer is for the environment here. I’m committed to trying to find out what the best solution is and try to build that model and integrate it next year at Fort Hays State University,”
Hammond said he plans to set up an internal task force to look at the news needs of campus and the best way to meet those needs.
The task force will survey students and faculty and will report back.
“How do we utilize all of the technology and modalities available to give the students the news and information to be successful in this world?” Hammond said.
He stressed the importance of convening the task force in a timely manner so a new system can be set in place by fall.
“We will use that information exchange to help build our model and implement that model next year the best we can,” Hammond said.
“We will also look at the curriculum side of what we do because if the world is changing, we also need to change the curriculum to change with it,” Hammond said.
The Leader was at one time offered as a one credit-hour lab that was required for all journalism majors, but could be taken by anyone interested in being part of the newspaper.
“Why would you have a journalism department with no hands-on experience?” Walter said of the paper’s shift away from an academic tie-in. “It is like having an art depart- ment, but not giving the students the opportunity to paint.”
Hammond will also hold a symposium with experts in local and national media.
“Students who are interested can come to that discussion and participate in the discussion,” Hammond said.
Several students, including members of Student Government, said they would like to see the university continue printing a paper.
“The only thing I have heard is that there are always papers wasted and with the big sustainability movement, a lot of people have commented there are a lot of wasted papers,” said senior SGA member Kelly Nuckolls.
Nuckolls is also the student coordinator for the Center for Civic Leadership.
“I think it is important to have a paper,” Nuckolls said. “I know, not just as a student coordinator at the center, but when I was involved in Up ‘Til Dawn and other organizations on campus, it was really nice to have that tool to advertise and know what other organizations are doing so we can plan with them.”
Other students said a campus paper provides them a portal to information they might otherwise miss.
“I think it is important to have a paper on campus for the students who don’t make it to events. I think it is good for students to look at what is going on on campus and feel connected. I feel like it needs to be printed, just not as many copies,” said sophomore Tre’ Giles, a member of SGA.
While the future of the print edition of the Leader remains to be seen, the staff has applied for allocations for the 2013-14 school year.
Until then, a few staff members will continue to publish stories online for the remainder of the semester.