UNO newspaper urges students to keep it going
March 5th, 2012
Omaha, NE – Students will vote on whether to keep the campus newspaper at the University of Nebraska Omaha alive tomorrow.
Stacks of newspapers are piled high in the UNO Gateway offices, nestled in the back of UNOâ€™s student center. A scribbled-on whiteboard lists story assignments. Papers and printers are strewn about a mismatched collection of furnishings: a typical newsroom.
UNOâ€™s student paper will be 100 years old next year. During its tenure, the paper has reported on stories like the creation of the Black Studies department in the 1960s, and, more recently, UNOâ€™s controversial cutting of its football and wrestling programs last year.
â€œWeâ€™re completely student-run, and so we donâ€™t have anyone telling us what we can and cannot put in the paper,â€ said Kelsey Jochum, the Gatewayâ€™s editor-in-chief.
â€œI think itâ€™s very important to have that presence on campus, just like it is out in the real world.â€
Like newspapers around the country, the Gateway has faced a decline in advertising dollars over the past few years â€“ as students shift to online sources of news. Its budget was further squeezed earlier this year, after it received a 25 percent cut from the student activities board.
â€œYeah, itâ€™s difficult times for print student newspapers, said Dan Reimold, an Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Tampa and the creator of College Media Matters â€“ an online blog covering the student press.
Reimold said budget cuts and declining ad revenues have painted a not-too-rosy picture for many student papers. Many are printing less to save money, he said, and moving their presence online. But he said itâ€™s important to ensure campus media continues as it plays an essential role: an uncensored voice of the student body.
â€œThe student newspaper is the most powerful tool that students have at their disposal to make sure administrators are listening to studentâ€™s concerns, to ensure that people are held in check on campus for things that are being done or not done,â€ Reimold said.
Student media has often led the way in innovation and high-tech trends, he said, and has proven to be a critical source of news.
â€œStudent media have often broken most of the big stories that we know about that have in any way involved higher education,â€ Reimold said. â€œWhether its various achievements or wrongdoing by those in power at the schools, or â€¦ more recently, things having to do with behind-the-scenes corruption, or even being the first to report, or the best to report, on school shootings or other disasters.â€
Reimold said he does, at times, recommend campus papers consider becoming commercial operations â€“ without any reliance on campus or student support. But he said that only works for high-profile papers that can afford a professional staff to focus on revenue. He said most papers need student support so they can focus on news.
Seventy percent of the Gatewayâ€™s budget comes from student fee support. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Daily Nebraskan, a campus paper thatâ€™s been around since 1901, relies far less on student fees: only 20 percent of its budget. The remaining comes from generated revenue.
But, Dan Shattil, the General Manager of the paper said he has also seen a steep drop in ad sales, and the paper may end up dropping its print edition. That would make it further dependent on student fee support. But he says there will always be a need for the paper on campus.
â€œCampus is like a mini-city with a lot of things going on,â€ Shattil said. â€œA lotâ€¦ is funded by taxpayers, and a lot by student tuition and fees. So itâ€™s good to have an independent voice look at whatâ€™s happening on campus and report on whatâ€™s going on.â€
Back at the Gateway offices, the paper is readying for a student vote this week on whether to keep supporting it with student fees. Itâ€™s a vote that happens every year. But, Jochum said, this year is critical. Without student support, the paper may not survive.
â€œThe campus is here to service the students,â€ she said. â€œ(When) we get students to write for us, or even write editorially for us, we find out whatâ€™s important to themâ€¦ we can understand more of what the student body wants.â€
â€œAnd weâ€™re able to put it into a type of medium where people can read it and see it, she said. â€œSo I think itâ€™s importantâ€¦ theyâ€™re able to get their voices heard in a way that they canâ€™t otherwise on campus.â€
Students will make those voices heard â€“ by casting a ballot on the Gatewayâ€™s future Tuesday.
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