No matter how you feel about the Daily Publications Society’s editorial politics, a “yes” vote is the sensible choice on their proposed fee increase.
Newspaper advertising is in the toilet – the Tribune’s advertising revenue has been cut in half in the last two years – and printing costs are steadily increasing. The DPS publishes two editions of the Daily and one of Le Délit – the only French-language newspaper on campus – per week, and is projected to run a deficit this fiscal year. In order to stabilize their finances, the DPS is seeking a $1 increase to their $5-per-semester student fee through a referendum that opened for voting on Friday.
Without a fee hike, Daily editors have claimed that they will have to consider eliminating the Daily’s Thursday edition or instituting strict page limits for future issues. While better page management and more judicious use of colour pages would improve their financial situation, eliminating the Thursday edition would limit the Daily’s efficacy as an outlet for student opinions, reducing the scope and depth of their coverage. The DPS is an important part of campus dialogue as a forum for both campus and international issues. While the Tribune and the DPS often differ in many ways, we complement each other’s coverage, and McGill is better off with three healthy campus newspapers.
DPS editors have also emphasized that the fee increase would be used to fund an expansion of the online presence of the Daily and Le Délit. The media world is changing and student newspapers need to reflect the shift away from the print medium. The Daily far surpasses the Tribune in terms of online content – see the “Unfit to Print” podcast and even their Twitter feed as examples of this – and further expansion in this area will require dedicated multimedia and online content editors.
A move towards an online first model is inevitable due to the current advertising climate; moreover, it is desirable, as it will provide editors with the training they need to work in professional journalism after graduation. McGill does not have a journalism program, a void the DPS and the Tribune fill by providing practical training for aspiring journalists – training that should emphasize the ability to work across multiple media platforms.
However, a significant portion of the Tribune editorial board feels that a $1 fee increase is excessive. The DPS is projected to run a deficit of between $5,000 and $10,000 this year, while the proposed fee increase would bring in roughly $40,000 per year in extra funds. While advertising revenue is declining, that alone does not account for a large portion of the excess funds. Online expansion is a worthwhile, but relatively cheap, undertaking. We’d like to hear some concrete examples of where the rest of the excess money generated by a fee increase will be spent, since we don’t want any more student fees funneled into the DPS’s reserve accounts (which totaled over $200,000 at the end of the 2009 fiscal year).
Much of the Tribune editorial board feels that a 50-cent fee increase, coupled with cost-cutting measures such as page restrictions, would be sufficient for the DPS to consider expansion on a more fiscally responsible scale.
Nevertheless, $12 for around 70 issues of the Daily and Le Délit is a bargain. We strongly believe that the strength and diversity of campus media is worth protecting. The Tribune should be on sound financial footing now that our $3 fee has passed. It is important to ensure that the DPS is in an equally strong position, and it’s hard to argue that a stronger, financially stable, and modern DPS is not worth an extra toonie per year.