The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Admin says ‘advocate’ could fix media deficits

By Michael McFall & Jeremy Thompson, The Daily Utah Chronicle

Student media and the U’s media sales agency are in debt, but some question whether the administration’s solution is the right one.

As of March, The Daily Utah Chronicle had fallen about $47,000 in debt from a continuing decline in advertising revenue. KUTE under spent its budget by $2,000 this year, but the historically indebted student radio station has no funds to grow, pay its staff, hire a much-needed faculty adviser or advertise, said station manager Sean Halls.

U administrators are drafting a proposal that would increase student fees to merge all student media together and hire a supervisor, referred to as a “student-media advocate.”

The advocate is meant to lead them into a financially viable future, administrators said.

Student media need to be led into online content, and thus bring in more online advertising revenue, to stay afloat and prepare its students for the real world, said Fred Esplin, vice president for institutional advancement. They also need the advocate to garner corporate sponsorships and donations, he said.

Much like mainstream papers, The Chronicle‘s advertising revenue fell during the past year, particularly as the economy turned sour. But if online advertising was an immediate solution to newspapers’ revenue deficits, then major newspapers, such as The New York Times, wouldn’t be in a financial rut, said Dustin Gardiner, editor in chief of The Chronicle.

“What (Esplin is) suggesting isn’t going to change The Chronicle‘s economic situation,” Gardiner said. Offering multimedia online isn’t going to bring in more revenue overnight, he said.

The University Media Sales Group is also about $178,304 in debt, as of its March operating statement. The UMSG split from The Chronicle last July, including its financial debts, so its hurdles are no longer the paper’s to jump.

Gardiner said the paper doesn’t need an advocate to lead it out of debt, and should have the option to recover on its own and converge with other media free of the advocate’s purview. The Chronicle has a $53,000 cash reserve, and an about $60,000 scholarship endowment that flows into the paper as staff compensation. Gardiner said the paper should be out of the red within six months.

Advocate Salary
Conflicting information also exists about how the advocate’s position would be funded.

“The advocate is paid primarily by student fees with a mix of advertising revenues brought in,” said Jake Sorensen, general manager of the UMSG. But initially, the communication department would also partially fund the advocate’s salary, Sorensen said. The advocate’s paycheck would move toward a 50-50 split between fees and the department as media’s need for the advocate lessens, he said.

The goal is to shift the student fees from the advocate’s salary to directly supporting student media, said Glen Feighery, chairman of the Publications Council, in an e-mail.

However, Ann Darling, department chairwoman and leader of the proposal’s drafting, said that, “If the department of communication makes a contribution it will be in the form of payment for courses taught in the department of communication,” and would not pay any part of his or her salary working as an advocate, Darling said in an email.

Darling said her department does not have any new funds to pay more compensation than it already does. Darling could not yet provide an answer as to whether the council would have the freedom to hire someone outside of the department, who could then subsidize his or her salary by working for the department.

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Alyssa Bailey

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