Editor’s Note: The following is a statement from the Tribune.
Update: The Board for Student Media has released a statement on its budget shortfall.
The Marquette Board for Student Media reached an informal agreement Wednesday to cut The Marquette Tribune from 16 to eight pages but partially reversed that agreement Friday following an outpouring of support for the Tribune from its staff, other Marquette students and Marquette alumni.
Friday’s shift, which allows the biweekly Tribune to publish issues of 12 to 16 pages rather than its traditional 16 to 20, came after 48 hours in which a movement begun by Marquette students, identified by the hashtag #LongLiveTheTrib, brought the attention of other students, alumni and media figures to the impending cuts. A Change.org petition to completely reverse the cuts, started by Tribune reporter Eric Oliver, has accumulated more than 160 signatures in less than 36 hours.
The original agreement, reached Wednesday afternoon in a 90-minute board meeting, came in response to a university-wide spending freeze of 2 percent and a suggestion by Marquette Provost John Pauly that Marquette’s student media cut costs immediately by halving the Tribune, board chairman and journalism professor William Thorn said at the meeting Wednesday.
It remains unclear how long the new standards of 12- and 16-page Tribunes will last. Thorn said Friday that student media budget discussions would resume Monday, with the Tribune still likely being cut to eight- to 12-page issues next year due to a coming 5 percent spending cut by the university. A vote was never held at Wednesday’s meeting, but board members indicated that cutting the Tribune to eight pages, starting as soon as next week, would be a financial necessity.
The agreement came in spite of alternative solutions proposed by Tribune Editor-in-Chief Andrew Phillips, including cutting the paper’s circulation. Thorn and Kimberly Zawada, the student media business manager and advertising advisor, could not say how much a cut to eight pages would save in costs, nor how much the university was requesting in savings, when asked at Wednesday’s meeting.
Thorn released a statement Saturday on behalf of the board, writing that the cuts are in response to a decline in advertising revenue and indicating that the board is open to a combination of solutions to its budget shortfall.
“As it has in the past and will continue to do, the university provided a subsidy for student media which, when coupled with advertising revenue, funds student media, including the Tribune,” Thorn wrote. “This year’s subsidy was $150,000.00, but the low ad revenues have led to substantial spending beyond revenue, which would create a large deficit in the student media budget.”
“The ratio of advertising volume to the size of the Tribune remains one of a variety of alternatives, perhaps in combination, that the Board will consider in its effort to balance the budget,” the statement continued.
Student media advertising Director Anthony Virgilio said in Wednesday’s meeting that he was optimistic the advertising department would be able to meet its revenue goal for the year. Marquette’s student media also include Marquette Television, Marquette Radio, the student magazine The Marquette Journal and the online branch Student Media Interactive.
Thorn and other board members voiced a strong opposition in Wednesday’s meeting to cutting student positions or salaries, which they said make up 78 percent of student media spending.
Wednesday’s agreement came the same day as Marquette’s announcement of an $8.3 million donation to its College of Communication. That money could not be used for student media, as it was designated specifically for a fellowship in public-service journalism and student media funding comes directly from the university. The cuts also follow a Jan. 22 announcement by the university that its tuition will increase by 4.25 percent – or $1,390 – for the 2013-14 academic year.
Students who signed the petition expressed concerns about the cuts’ effects on Marquette’s campus.
“Like others, I’m not a journalism student or even in the College of Communication, but I am a proud supporter of Marquette Student Media, including the Trib,” wrote Zach Henderson, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. “I love the insightful editorials and articles that the Trib publishes. The ability of the Trib’s staff to examine important campus issues is central to maintaining good working relationships between students and university administration, and I would hate to see that relationship weakened via funding cuts to the Trib. At very least, the hardworking student staff deserves fair and accurate information regarding the future of student media funding.”
“People believe print is dead, and by cutting such a successful and well loved publication in half, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” added Hannah McCarthy, a junior in the College of Communication and the news director of Marquette Radio. “The Trib is hands down the most successful student media outlet, and downsizing it will do nothing but harm to those who work for and avidly read it. I have never been so disappointed in my college.”
Among the hundreds of tweets posted with the hashtag #LongLiveTheTrib, students said the cuts meant more than just the loss of pages.
“Thanks to the @mutribune, I have conducted nearly 100 interviews for more than 40 articles in only two semesters. #LongLiveTheTrib,” wrote Ben Greene, a sophomore in the College of Communication and a Tribune assistant news editor and sports reporter.
“My time with the @mutribune was among the most important of my college career — and I didn’t even study journalism. #LongLiveTheTrib,” wrote Tori Dykes, a 2012 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences and a former Tribune managing editor.
“If this outpouring of support for @mutribune proves anything, it’s that @MarquetteU is cutting more than just a newspaper #LongLiveTheTrib,” added Matt Mueller, a senior in the College of Communication and the editor of Marquee, the Tribune’s arts and entertainment section.
Major media figures and outlets who have taken note of the cuts include Jim Romenesko, Steve Rushin, the Student Press Law Center, College Media Matters, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Tribune was named the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2010 Best All-Around Non Daily Student Newspaper.