Sunday, January 19, 2014

Could You Imagine If Business Could Get Away With What These College Students Are Trying To Get Away With?

Actually, under Obamacare, the insurance companies already can get away with this--wait till they raise their rates this year!  The difference between Obamacare and this story out of local UC Davis (aka Berkeley-lite) is that under Obamacare, at least citizens have a choice about which insurance company they want to pay!
As a generation of students raised on the Internet takes hold, UC Davis’ campus newspaper faces the real possibility of going extinct before its 100th anniversary next year.

The California Aggie has already gone from a daily to a weekly, eliminated staff positions and imposed across-the-board pay cuts. Now, in a desperate measure, it wants undergraduate students to finance its operation through an annual $9.30 campus fee.

“In a school that doesn’t have a journalism program, the Aggie is a learning laboratory for future photographers, writers and editors,” Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Orpina said Friday at her office in Lower Freeborn Hall. 
If people valued their product they'd pay for it.  What does it say about UC Davis and its student paper that they have to compel students to subsidize this paper?
Miles Thomas, Senate president pro tempore at UC Davis, backed the student fees and described the Aggie as “one of the most critical institutions on campus.”

“They keep student government accountable and the administration of UC Davis accountable. Look at the pepper-spray incident,” Thomas said, referring to the 2011 event that gained international notoriety after campus police pepper-sprayed demonstrators protesting tuition hikes on the university quad.

“A fee referendum is the only way the Aggie could keep its integrity as a newspaper,” Thomas said.
How many people recorded the pepper-spraying incident with their phones, and published the videos to YouTube, before the Aggie ever got an issue to press?
The precipitous decline of the publication began seven years ago as the Aggie struggled to cope with the digital age. Orpina and past editors said financial mismanagement, combined with slumping ad revenue and decreasing readership, forced the paper last year to slash print publication from four days a week to one day.

The paper has tried to cut costs in other ways. Writers and photographers are not paid for their work. Managers receive a stipend averaging $50 a week.

Marc Cooper, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, criticized the proposed student fee, suggesting it was primarily driven by nostalgia.

“When you’re dying at this rate, it’s like asking people to donate to keep you on life support,” Cooper said. “If you can’t sell enough ads to sustain one or two days of publication, what kind of force are you in the community?” 
It's obvious that the Aggie isn't valued, at least as a printed paper.  How much did the paper cost before this request for subsidizing?  Or was it printed and distributed and students could pick one up for free?
In the face of economic realities and the changing habits of student consumers, the Aggie has struggled to find its place on campus. Cooper said the money would be better spent on retooling the Aggie’s website, which could be maintained for very little compared with the cost of printing papers.

“There’s an inherent danger of falling behind the ecology of news,” Cooper said. 
It seems to me that Professor Cooper has the right idea.  And if even that doesn't work, then Davis doesn't need a student-run paper.  Trying to require all students to subsidize the pastime of a few students who call themselves a newspaper staff but can't support their own hobby?  What an admission of failure!

They are, however, learning the lessons of liberals well.

Update, 3/18/14:  Forgot to link the outcome here, so here's the outcome!

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:


Left Coast Conservative said...

I am an Aggie: BSEE, 1988. In my day, the Cal Aggie was published 5 days each week, and was free. As a poor student, I liked having a free newspaper that I could read everyday.

Fast forward to 2014, in San Jose: we subscribe to the San Jose Mercury News, but i do not read it. I read Real Clear Politcs, Forbes online, Drudge, Slashdot, Real Clear Technology, and other online sources of news.

Perhaps the Aggie should only exist as an online paper. That would give the students a better preparation of the world of digital journalism: paper is disappearing.

maxutils said...

Being a UCD grad, back when tuition was a little less than $1500 a year (all of 20 years ago), and it was the Daily Aggie, because it came out on every school day, and it was a really good student paper...

It irritates me that this incredibly small amount of money would be an issue, when it help support a journalism program, while we have allowed tuitions to grow exponentially. Everything on a UC campus is subsidized to some degree ... that's the very notion of a state supported university system. Why should a journalism program be singled out? When you think about it, that's a lot like saying that Chemistry students should pay for their own supplies because their class costs more to fund than, say, an English class. I think the larger issue is that we should figure out why what was perfectly doable for $1500 in 1988 is now closer to $15,000 ... without a daily paper.

maxutils said...

And my example was not good ... chemistry students pay for lab fees. It doesn't change the fact that all of the classes are subsidized in some way.

Jarett said...

Every year, University of San Diego students are charged a "Vista Fee" to cover the expenses of publishing the weekly Vista. The cost this year for every student was eight dollars.

USD doesn't have a true journalism program (there are select classes offered through the Department of Communications, but that's more or less it). Most students volunteer their efforts to put out a paper or they receive academic credit for their work.

Without that eight dollars, there would definitely not be a Vista paper every week. But would USD students pony up the money to purchase a Vista if that fee was not in place? I don't believe so.

In many ways, the Vista is similar to the Mirada (and as a former editor-in-chief to the latter of the two, I believe that I can make that assertion). People like to have a physical paper to read, to look at, to hold. That tangibility has a certain novelty that's just really familiar and, simply, nice to have. That novelty isn't necessary--which is why students wouldn't pay for it--but its convenience and availability as a free piece of reading is just that. Convenient and widely available for free.

Is news in general (rapidly) shifting to an online format? Yes. But does that mean that a paper which is circulated primarily on said paper's university campus be cut off from that university's population in favor of a solely online presence? Again, I don't believe so. In my opinion, the moment that that paper isn't simply sitting next to the register of the school's cafe, stacked in front of the science building, or piled high on the counters of administrative offices, you take away both the convenience and the availability. I don't ever actively think about logging on to the Vista's website for the latest breaking news, but if I pass by a stack of this week's Vistas, I'll almost always pick up a copy because it's there for me to do just that. Do I absolutely need to read the Vista while I'm eating lunch or waiting between classes? No, but for eight bucks I'm glad that I can.

I hate to call the tangibility of a physical paper a "novelty." I think that, at least as a student, it's just a little part of what makes up student life. And personally, I'm willing to pay 27 cents per issue to be able to have that experience, that little piece of student life.

Darren said...

You're willing to pay it, *and* you're willing to *require* me to pay it.

There are many things I'm happy to have for free that I'll do without when I have to pay for them--which is why the paywall at many "professional" newspapers doesn't bring in any money.

If *you* think the paper is important enough to require others to pay for it, think about what that says about *you*. You're deciding not only what's important for other adults, you're requiring *them* to pay for *your* beliefs.

If the students don't value the paper, it should go away. I think the same thing about sports programs--as well as many useless degrees :-)

Jarett said...

I think what you're saying is dangerous to the spirit of the university system, particularly your comment about "useless" degrees.

First of all, I'm not exactly sure what you're intending 'useless' to mean. Is 'useless' referring to a degree that isn't strictly practical or technical? Is 'useless' referring to fields in which a small minority of students will focus their studies? Is 'useless' referring to majors and degrees which (essentially) don't guarantee a certain amount of money earned at the end of the year?

Well, I know for a fact that there is a very small base of USD students who are math majors. That would indicate to me that the end result itself--a degree in Mathematics from USD--is not truly "valued" by current or prospective students. If it was, wouldn't there be more people who were Math majors? Because the Math program here is so small, should we cut it entirely? Same goes for Theology and Religious Studies. What about English? Anthropology? Visual Arts? It's a slippery slope.

What makes "a university" a university is not its ability to churn out graduates who all have roughly the same "useful and practical" degree (in fact, that greatly harms the university's reputation, and said university can actually lose certain national accreditation for a lack of diversity among students). A university is--and should be--the ultimate "meeting of the minds." When you start to take away majors based on their *perceived* uselessness, you destroy what it is to be a university in the first place. If you're claiming to be a university (which is a pretty bold claim), then you better have the widespread array of studies that a university doesn't just offer, but GUARANTEES on the virtue of the institution being a university in the first place!

A university shouldn't be--and I hope isn't--worried about being a machine that churns out 'practicality'. And if you're looking for a strict monetization of your degree, then maybe you should really think about what that degree and your entire experience in *and* at college really means.

Your time at a university should be a time of personal enrichment which happens through exploring an array of fields. But what happens when those fields are taken away because of a perception of value? How does that affect students now? And just as important, how does that affect students in the future?

Darren said...

You're right about "useless" degrees, as one man's garbage is another man's treasure (so says the old saying). Actually, I *do* believe that much of education can and perhaps should be devoted to broadening your horizons. You and I agree on what *used* to be called a broad, liberal arts education.

However, I doubt that there are too many people in the Aggrieved Victims Studies majors who are at a university to broaden their horizons. Almost by definition such degrees shrink, rather than broaden perspective. Add to that the relative paucity of jobs awaiting those thusly educated, and you have *my* definition of a "useless degree".

You're at a private school, so my comments count somewhat less than those who attend public universities, but my tax money *does* go to your school through Pell Grants and Cal Grants so I get *some* say here. You can major in Aggrieved Victims Studies or even in Medieval Russian Literature if you so desire, but I don't see how *I* as a taxpayer benefit by paying for *your* doing that (and my tax dollars support higher education on the assumption that it's a *public* good). If you want to pay for your Renaissance Uzbeki Film degree, pursue it to the ends of the earth! Were I to have to help pay for it, though, I'd call it "useless".

I appreciate the points you brought up and am glad we have *some* common ground in them.

Darren said...

What do you think of the USC journalism professor's comments?
“When you’re dying at this rate, it’s like asking people to donate to keep you on life support,” Cooper said. “If you can’t sell enough ads to sustain one or two days of publication, what kind of force are you in the community?”

maxutils said...

Jarett ... agree completely. And very well reasoned almost like you went to Rio, and learened how to write. ;) Darren, public universities are publicly funded, but they exist to educate. Do you also support the elimination of 'useless' programs in high school, like wood shop, home economics art, etc? You really shouldn't be upset about the newspaper ... you should be upset about the fact that half the people admitted in to the public university system need remedial classes in math, or English, or both ... cut those people out, and provide them with alternatives in HS, and you save your money, and the paper probably gets funded.

Darren said...

Only an idiot would suggest that I would want to end the classes you suggested, and then go on to suggest that I am not upset by the remedial level of too many who enter our state universities.

Jarett said...

In regards to the question on Professor Cooper:

I addressed this in my first post, but I really believe that a student paper is just a part of campus life. A major part? No, but it's a part of it.

A campus paper is a way for students to stay informed on what's going on around campus. Is the campus paper "one of the most critical institutions" on a university campus? I'd probably have to shrug my shoulders and say "Eh" (unless you're talking about something like The Daily Californian, which is on an entirely different scale than most university publications).

I think Cooper is a bit off the mark. I think university publications are more of a presence than a *force* in the community, per se. Their job, for the most part, is to document what is happening on campus or what is affecting the university in some way. Most are free to students (and I'd even go so far as to say that I'd be surprised if I saw a university charge for every new edition of the paper). You have to remember, we're not talking about journalism behemoths like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times here.

In principle, is Cooper right? Yeah, he probably is. If a fee was passed, would the money be better spent tooling up for journalism's transition into the digital age? I guess so.

But realistically speaking, we're talking about a paper with a relatively small reader base by both location and by design. These papers are generally picked up by students while they're on their way to somewhere else. They're easy to get and they're there. I don't think the UC Davis Aggie is trying to compete with the news giants. And I don't believe (and I don't know) that the Aggie is trying to be the kind of "force in the community" that Cooper is making it out to be.

Cooper is making some accurate observations on the journalism 'industry' as a whole (even though I don't believe that print is ever going to go away completely). But I think he isn't truly considering the difference in scale between a university paper and a national publication.

On a final note, print journalism isn't "dying," in my opinion; however, it is rapidly shrinking (even though there are some anomalies where print journalism is actually growing, I believe, like on a very small, local level). I don't think there will ever be a definite end to the printed publication, and I might even be so presumptuous to say that in my heart of hearts I believe that there will probably be a resurgence in the popularity of the *physical* product. People are going to eventually figure out that when they buy digital, they're not really buying "a thing" per se. And I think people are going to start wanting something that they can hold again. Eventually. Hopefully.

Darren said...

Your logic is exactly why I *hope* that the doom-sayers, those who say that within 5 years all video will be streamed and that dvd's and blu-rays will not be made any longer, are wrong. I *like* owning my physical media.

I also pay for it.

A campus needs a news outlet. I'm not convinced it needs a newspaper, especially one that requires students to pony up yet another in a long list of hidden "fees".

maxutils said...

Darren, when you used the word 'useless' to describe degrees, which you did, and did not specify why in particular which these were, and why they were useless (which is completely based on opinion), it is fair to ask what you consider to be useless. I didn't imply that you weren't upset about the other things ... I suggested you focus on something that was much more expensive and, yes, useless ... remedial programs. I know you don't like those, but it's a much more important battle than a $9 fee for people who can actually write without having to take a remedial program. And ... you're usually much better than calling people idiots.

maxutils said...

I also like having physical media. My daughter doesn't understand my CD collection ... and I don't even like the fact that the liner notes are still so small, though. I buy my books, or get them from the library ... I guess a kindle could be useful if one were taking a trip, and needed a small way to have lots of books, but I hate reading long things on a computer screen. Newspapers are the same ... and try doing a crossword on line ...totally unsatisfying.