The ‘Record’ sell out

To the Editor:

I like newsprint; I don’t like the new Student Activities Tax (SAT) subsidy of the Record.

I have a lot of respect for the work that’s being done to make the Record financially viable, and I am glad that everyone was able to agree that it’s not okay for an independent paper to take money from College Council.

But it’s debatable whether or not this is, as Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) chair Cathy Johnson states in the Dec. 8 article, “not a controversial issue.”

In that article, Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 said, “the Record is an important and valuable campus resource,” and that we should “make sure we … always have a Record.” But that picture of the student newspaper would not seem to match what we generally associate with the free press.

The Record’s coverage of the new tax draws analogies between its own financial issues and the funding crisis facing newspapers nationwide. And this is, in many ways, a fair comparison to make. But I don’t think it can be used in defense of a college-wide subsidy – if The Seattle Post-Intelligencer decided that the best way to continue printing hard copies was to draw from municipal tax revenues, I think it would have faced some resistance.

In the last few years, independent news sources have generally chosen to retain their autonomy and change their printing formats rather than forfeit their financial independence.

What I’m trying to say is this: We can decide that the Record is a subsidy-worthy college resource or we can decide that the Record is our own little piece of free student press, but economic realities forbid us from having it both ways.
In other words, I wish that the Record had given up full-color broadsheet printing instead of its independence, as much as I’d be sad to see the former go. And I’d be wasting ink and – most ironically – paper if I spent much time elaborating the resource-saving virtues of a less print-heavy (or entirely web-based) publication.

Record coverage so far has included input from all the parties involved in making the decision, and they’ve offered opinions which are more or less in agreement. I think it would be worth the editorial board’s time to get some input from all of those who will be affected by the change – the student body who will now be subsidizing their publication and who may not be on the same page as the student leaders, faculty and administrators who have already been given a voice.

Seeing that there hasn’t been any public outcry yet, perhaps the CPR was right to think that this change isn’t controversial. But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be – putting any sort of evaluation of the SAT tax increase aside, I think the Record owes it to its readership to examine for itself the implications of this change to the fullest extent possible.

-James Grzelak ’13

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