Voluntary Budget Cuts at KU?
Bucking the trend, funding for the student newspaper the University Daily Kansan will not be cut because of a budget crunch. Rather, the Student Senate Finance Committee (SSFC) is considering cutting funding to avoid appearing to be purchasing favorable coverage from the paper.
The committee at Kansas University voted 7-3 to cut funding to the Kansan on Wednesday night.
The proposed cut would reduce the media fee by $1.70 per student and would reduce funding to the Kansan by $83,000. That amounts to about eight percent of its annual $1.18 million annual budget, much of which goes to student salaries, printing, and distribution costs.
Mason Heilman, the student body president, proposed the cut to avoid conflict of interest in coverage of the student senate.
“I think that any legislative body appropriating funds to a media outlet that is going to provide coverage of them is inappropriate,” Heilman said in an interview with Kansan.
The student media fee is $4 per student, funds that go toward supporting the Kansan, KUJH-TV, KJHK, Kiosk and KU Filmworks. Heilman said he was targeting the paper in particular for cuts because he said he did not approve of the Kansan's relations with Student Senate.
“To me, this is one of the most inappropriate relationships Student Senate has with any other outside group,” Heilman said.
“The parallel to me would be if Congress stepped in and said The New York Times is about to go under and we think they are an important news source so we are going to fund them, but then we are going to expect them to provide unbiased coverage of us,” he said.
Stephen Montemayor, editor-in-chief of The Kansan, said in an interview with The Kansan that if Student Senate passes the cut, the paper will have to lower salaries and reduce its staff next year, which could reduce the overall quality of coverage by the newspaper.
“These are students who are getting real world application of what they are in school for right now,” he said. “It is very important that students have these opportunities and to take them away is just kind of mind boggling.”
The Kansan is widely regarded as one of the best student newspapers in the country. In 2009, it won a Pacemaker award from the Associated College Press, an honor considered to be the Pulitzer of student journalism.
The Kansan currently has 60 paid positions, which include section editors, managing editors, and designers. Advertisers are paid on commission and photographers are paid per photo, according to the article.
Compared to other Big 12 student papers, Kansas financial support is relatively low. The University of Texas and Kansas State University have about $300,000 in revenue from their student media fees.
The proposed funding cut will be debated by the full senate March 24th.
Greater student opinion may be opposed to Heilman's campaign. A poll accompanying the Kansan's article on this issue found 83 percent of the 318 respondents to be against cuts.
Malcolm Gibson, general manager of The Kansan, said he would like to see a student-wide referendum, and Heilman said he would not oppose that.