When I heard that a former Bulletin staff member was calling for allocation cuts to the paper, I was, in a word, flabbergasted. As the former editor-in-chief of The Bulletin, I hired Josh Johnson as a staff writer when he first came to Emporia State. I had confidence in his writing abilities. He was not only a staff writer for the paper, but was also the paper’s online editor for a time. I selected him to be one of a few students to attend training at the College Media Advisers Conference in New York City in the spring of 2010. I believed in his ability to contribute to the future of the publication, which is now in its 110th year.
If a former staff member doesn’t understand the necessity of the paper and the reason for the current student fee, I can only guess the average student doesn’t know either. I hope to explain some of the background that has led to the current student fee of $9.58 (according to the current Student Handbook) and why The Bulletin fee increased during my time as editor.
While part of Bulletin funding goes toward a print product, the majority of the budget goes toward student salaries. A challenge the Bulletin had always faced was inconsistency in staff, which was difficult because there is not a journalism major at ESU that feeds into the newspaper. Additionally, many students who wanted to have real-world experience at The Bulletin could not work for the paper because the pay was less than minimum wage.
When The Emporia Gazette closed its presses in 2009, we had to make a quick decision to have our paper printed in Lawrence. To make up for the increased printing cost, we decided to publish the print edition once a week instead of twice. We also dropped our April Fool’s Day edition so we could have advertising in every printed issue. When we made the agreement, I was very pleased and was told by many students and faculty that we made a good choice by having one solid issue per week instead of two issues that stretched the staff and resources too thin.
Along with the changes to the print edition, we revamped the website and created social media accounts for the paper, which I think had greatly added to its effectiveness in sharing news with the student body. I have no doubt that the additional training, equalizing of pay and the improved look of the print product helped lead The Bulletin to winning the All-Kansas title for the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press last year. The impact of those decisions, along with the hard work and leadership of the current staff, helped lead the paper to winning that award again this year.
Additionally, most students do not realize that the bulk of advertising revenue comes from the print edition. To take away the print edition would surely kill the paper and its ability to pay staff members to produce it. Advertising revenue is not always consistent, especially in this economy, and student fees act as a safeguard for the paper.
It is important for students to know where their student fees are going. But to take away funding from an organization that gives jobs to students seeking real-world training in a town that already has limited employment opportunities is not the right choice.
As someone who has not the least bit of interest in athletics, I was surprised when I found out how much of my student fees went toward it. But despite only attending maybe three athletic events in four years, I was happy to do it. I knew that students would benefit from me paying it. I knew the university as a whole would benefit from having strong athletic programs. The same idea applies to RSOs like The Bulletin – and at a much lower cost.
Another idea that has been mentioned is turning the paper into an internship, a class or volunteer paper. This idea would essentially kill the paper. It is hard enough to find students willing to work 20 hours per week for the pay students receive, let alone having it count as an internship or volunteer work. And if the paper became part of a class, it would legally no longer be a free student press. Class-run newspapers can legally have prior review by advisers, teachers and administrators, making them no longer free. To think of the Bulletin becoming a public relations rag makes me sick.
I think most people can agree that a free press is integral to a free society. I encourage students to engage more with the student newspaper if they feel they aren’t getting anything out of it, be it by writing a letter to the editor, engaging in online discussion, joining the staff or simply taking the time to read it.
It’s your newspaper. It’s your voice. Use it.