Full Disclosure: The Voice is a member of Media Board.
We believe that student media serves a valuable purpose to the campus community. From the look of its Fiscal Year 2018 Student Activities Report, it appears that GUSA is unconvinced.
The report outlined a 39.5 percent cut in the funding for Media Board, which serves as the advising and funding structure for all media organizations at Georgetown, including print publications, GUTV, WGTB, and others. Media Board was one of only two student boards to see their budgets cut, the other being the Georgetown Program Board.
As “Campus Media Concerned Over Budget Cuts” reports, GUSA allocated $57,500 to Media Board, less than half of the requested amount. GUSA reported that this year it received decreased funding requests and slightly more money from the student activities fee as compared to last year, so this cut cannot be explained by a need for austerity. While this allocation, plus other grant money, will cover Media Board’s essential operating costs, the cut directly threatens the vitality of campus media. This editorial board believes that GUSA has used flawed thinking in making this budget cut, resulting in blatant overreach.
The Fiscal Year 2018 Student Activities Report indicates that GUSA believes that campus print publications need to immediately shift to greater online presences. Any casual observer of the journalism industry can see this impulse across the field, including right here on campus.
Two years ago, the Voice moved to a bi-weekly print production schedule and an increased focus on our website. This semester, as GUSA’s report mentions, The Hoya announced a cut in their own print production. The Voice or The Hoya may decide in the future to further reduce their print volume to adapt to a changing media environment, but it is not the place of GUSA to dictate such changes. Only the publications in question-either individually or together as the Media Board-should be making these decisions.
Further, while the GUSA report mentions only the Voice, The Hoya, and WGTB, Media Board contains several other groups which will be affected by this cut. The needs of publications like the Caravel, The Georgetown Independent, and the Triple Helix, among others, and non-print organizations like GUTV are all essentially disregarded by the budget cut. Their bare needs will be met, but they will have no room for creativity or expansion. Media Board also took on two new organizations this semester, Bossier and The Georgetown Review. This fact is not acknowledged in the report, although it is specifically stated that SAC’s budget was increased by 5.3 percent because it is also taking on new organizations.
Though we cannot speak for other organizations, the Voice will be taking measures to reduce costs next year, primarily through cutting print circulation by 75 percent. This will undoubtedly harm our visibility on campus, and we are sure that other publications will be forced to make similar choices. An increased online presence is a good goal to have, but for visiting families with little knowledge of campus organizations, seeing print publications around campus is an excellent way of introduction. Getting the minimum to cover essential operations is not enough, especially when it seems as if this logic was only applied to Media Board.
Publicly available notes from the GUSA Senate meeting on March 26, 2017 further convey the justification for the cut. One line, written in shorthand, stands out: “Costs like Marketing/Membership development will be covered by student membership funds.” These “student membership funds” would presumably come in the form of membership dues, similar to how some other clubs operate on campus. This is flawed logic. Through our club activities, we are providing a service. We should not have to pay in order to provide it.
As it stands now, journalism is an inherently privileged profession. Students interested in becoming journalists must be willing to work long hours for low or no wages to gain entry-level professional experience. By contrast, student media costs only time for its participants while providing valuable experience for aspiring journalists. Pushing costs onto the members of publications will only continue to push away students who do not come from wealthier backgrounds. This could only make more difficult attempts to make a newsroom that better matches our student body.
With the anti-media sentiment that is so rampant in America today, we feel the need to explicitly justify our existence. Student media provides a service to the greater Georgetown community, and we strive to hold the institutions at Georgetown accountable. We are not perfect. Much of what we do is not world-changing, but we work hard to tell and give voice to valuable stories. In the meantime, we provide an environment in which dozens of students each semester develop marketable skills, not just in writing and editing but also in design, web programming, and business.
This budget reduction sends the message that GUSA believes that it can dictate the future of media at Georgetown, and that Media Board should survive with the bare minimum. We strongly disagree, and put aside our friendly rivalries with our fellow Media Board members to speak out against this cut.