Editor-in-Chief candidate says fundraising is risky, but necessary for the Texan

Claire Smith

Editor’s Note: This year two candidates are running for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan in the campus-wide elections. The editor of the Texan, elected by the entire student body, has three primary responsibilities: 1) to oversee the paper’s opinion content, 2) to set policy for the paper and 3) to serve as the paper’s representative to the campus community and beyond. Per the TSM election code, the candidates, David Davis Jr. and Claire Smith, have been asked to write two 500-word columns, the first on the following question: What role should fundraising play in the Texan’s future? And what risks does the paper run by actively pursuing such alternative sources of revenue? Candidates wrote their own headlines. Only light typographical corrections were made. For more information on the candidates, please visit our candidate database here.

Much like other print news organizations, the Internet revolution has created new challenges for the future of The Daily Texan. Last year, President Powers’ office promised Texas Student Media up to of $250,000 annually for the next three years to buffer TSM’s recent financial aches and provided a written guarantee of imminent financial support two weeks ago. But that may not be enough. The next editor-in-chief should be expected to pursue fundraising opportunities to ensure the Texan’s future within and beyond the next three years but take care to avoid risks to the Texan’s integrity as a news agency.

In lieu of falling advertising revenues, fundraising has played a modest yet vital role in the Texan’s ability to stay in print. The recently-formed alumni group, Friends of the Texan, has taken an active role in the Texan’s finances in the past, but those efforts do not altogether remedy our empty wallet. As a reflection of this, in 2013, TSM discussed changing the Texan’s traditional five-day printing schedule to four days a week, and last year, discussed reducing the print schedule to once a week. The Daily Texan is struggling just to maintain the “daily” in its name. For the immediate future, independent fundraising for the Texan is a necessity.

I am excited to think outside the box to find healthy ways to finance the Texan, but it is important for the editor-in-chief to work with the TSM Board to pinpoint appropriate fundraising endeavors. Fundraising for media entities inevitably raises questions of propriety, but under my leadership, fundraising would never come at the cost of the paper’s or the staff’s integrity.

I believe the Texas Tribune could serve as a model of fundraising that does not infringe upon the paper’s independence. The Tribune collected $750,000 in grant money in 2009 alone. In 2011, the Tribune was granted $975,000 for a project with the nonprofit news organization the Bay Citizen from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a private, non-profit foundation that promotes journalism and media innovation. Fundraising opportunities can co-exist with journalism ethics and the Texan’s staunch standards for fair and factual reporting. But I understand the path to these grants may not be easy. The University of Texas’ large endowment may complicate assuring grant-giving foundations of our need. That should not stop the Texan from pursuing external funding. The University of Texas is a flagship institution; it deserves a flagship student newspaper. With the administration’s support for the next three years, I will work with TSM to find viable, appropriate fundraising options to put the Texan’s long-term health on track despite the changing landscape of print media.

While keeping the Texan in print five days a week will be my chief goal, I am not willing to do so at any cost and certainly not at the expense of the Texan’s independence. During my tenure as editor-in-chief, independent fundraising would be doggedly sought but will never impair editorial discretion.

Smith is a history and humanities junior from Austin. She is running for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan. Follow Smith on Twitter @claireseysmith.