Media merge in the works for three years

By Michael McFall, Asst. News Editor

Student fees might go up by $1.34 next year and an additional $1.50 during the next few years to finance ideas that have quietly been in the works for three years.

The student fee is going up to finance plans to make the student radio station KUTE financially viable, start a public relations agency and hire two supervisors for the agency and all student media.

The proposal didn’t come about overnight.

In 2006, U President Michael Young set up a media task force to find a way to combine all student media. After a year of research, the task force concluded that student media should be merged into a single body that shares content, resources, staff and skills, according to the task force report. The plan also called for three new administrative positions, including a director of editorial and programming, who would manage The Chronicle, other campus publications and KUTE.

As the task force readied its report to bring before the U Board of Trustees for its June 2007 meeting, a story ran in The Daily Utah Chronicle that stirred tensions between The Chronicle and administrators.

The Chronicle printed the name of a rape victim, said Matthew Piper, 2007-2008 editor in chief. The victim asked to have her name printed, but changed her mind after the story was printed.

Randy Dryer, a Trustee, was quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune at the time saying he would be more comfortable with a more full time “professional” advisor at The Chronicle.

The task force’s proposal was postponed, and for a year the process went quiet. In the meantime, Ann Darling, chairwoman of the department of communication and a member of the task force, met with some members of student media, the councils that oversee them, the Hinckley Institute of Politics, student government and professional journalists, as well as a handful of departmental faculty, for their input on the proposal.

A few weeks ago, a revised version of the proposed changes was brought to light with more concrete details on how to merge all student media. The proposal revised many of the original plans proposed in the task force report and renamed the editorial director as the “student media advocate” to act as liaison between student media, the councils and the public, as well as implement the merged council’s policies and procedures.

Dustin Gardiner, The Chronicle’s editor in chief, expressed concern that an advocate would put administrative pressure on the student paper and could lead to censorship.

Patrick Reimherr, student body president, said all student media, save The Chronicle, have trouble and would benefit from a supervisor. He supports the proposal, though his successor, Tayler Clough, has come out against it.

Darling plans to present a revised draft of the proposal, one that is meant to weigh in the input of the groups she met with, to the Board of Trustees at their May 12 meeting. Darling is still working on the proposal’s final policies and procedures with Glen Feighery, chairman of the Publications Council, and Bob Avery, chairman of the Broadcast Council.

Darling and Fred Esplin, a fellow member of the task force, declined to comment.
Feighery and Avery did not respond to a request for comment.

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