‘Record’ accrues $12k debt due to lagging revenues

The economic troubles that hit reached the Purple Bubble over a year ago did not spare The Williams Record, the College’s only independent newspaper, which reports a current financial deficit of approximately $12,000. Although the student-run publication generally closes the year with some debt, a sharp recent decline in revenue has dug the hole deeper. Record Business Manager Marcello Halitzer ’12 has outlined a plan of recovery largely based on an increased focus on national advertising.

Halitzer attributes the debt to a drop-off in advertising and subscribers over a period of several years. Subscriptions have seen the greatest loss, decreasing by 200- to 300-percent over the past two years. Typically, campus ads make up one third or more of the paper’s yearly revenue, and these and local ads have shrunk dramatically to next to nothing. National advertising is the only revenue that has risen over time and now makes up about half of the revenue for the past year.

“It’s sad to say but I feel like it’s been [business from] the Williams community that’s been the one to drop off,” Halitzer said.

In 2007, yearly debt first began to accrue, and in each year since the Record has dropped an average of  $4500 deeper in the red. Even though the paper is autonomous, it processes its financial records through the College, which acts as accounting support and bank for the Record as it does for other student groups. According to Controller Sue Hogan, her office contacted Record business staff over the past summer to discuss the mounting deficit. “The students were very responsive,” she said, and the paper and the office are in the beginning stages of discussions. The office has asked for very specific plans for reducing the deficit and, when appropriate, will meet with other offices at the College to discuss the Record’s financial plans.

“The College is willing and prepared to work with student organizations to keep them operating,” Hogan said. “It’s always a two-way street.”

Strategies for the future are focused almost wholly on increasing revenue, as the newspaper is running barebones operations. Printing has shrunk from 4000 to 3000 issues. While the editorial staff has traditionally never taken pay, the budget for an end of term banquet has been entirely cut. Halitzer has diverted his salary for the year and runs a small business staff. Consulting services have been volunteered by Adrian Rodrigues ’10, who has worked closely with the paid staff of four.

National advertising is the next key step to bringing in revenue. Halitzer and the business staff have worked on getting the Record connected to national advertising firms in order to field profitable advertising offers, especially since working with national advertising is easier and projected to be more cost-effective than trying to reengage the Williams community, given limited local resources. A new Web site, slated to launch next week, will feature banner ads as a new avenue for income.

The music department is one branch of the College that made the decision to cut Record advertisements. David Kechley, chair of the music department, spoke to the need to operate on a decreased budget. The department’s manager’s budget was cut by 15 percent in the middle of last year, and the second round of cuts led to a 30 percent slice from the budget governing temporary labor. At this point, Kechley said that advertising in The Berkshire Eagle, North Adams Transcript and The Advocate had already been dropped and that Record advertising was last the circulating advertisement to go.

“We weren’t happy,” Kechley said. “We don’t want to cut advertising in the Record because it supports the students, but . . . we didn’t want to lose any teachers or ensemble directors.”

Lina Khan ’10, Record editor-in-chief, said that though the deficit has forced the staff to be more mindful of costs, she doesn’t foresee it causing long-term injury. “It’s impelling us to rethink how we approach our finances, which is something editors have traditionally been removed from,” she said. “That said, maintaining our financial and editorial independence is a top priority, and I’m confident we’ll emerge out of this with those intact.”

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