Texan, TSM’s future secure

Riley Brands

Texas Student Media has a bright future ahead.

I couldn’t necessarily have said the same had you asked me when I started at The Daily Texan in the summer of 2012. At the time, I was just a lowly entry-level staffer who wasn’t privy to key discussions on the budget. That said, I knew people were nervous about our financial future.

By a college student’s standards, the problems weren’t of a particularly recent vintage. After all, like nearly every other newspaper in this country, we had taken an enormous hit after the recession set in in 2008 and print advertising revenue, still the greatest source of most newspapers’ money, began to plummet. 

The extent of our financial troubles didn’t really become apparent to me until the spring of 2013, when the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees, which sets the budget for the Texan, the Cactus yearbook, the KVRX radio station, Texas Student Television and the Travesty humor publication, met to discuss the possibility of decreasing our print schedule from five days a week to four.

It wasn’t a major change, but it would have taken the Daily out of The Daily Texan and forever changed its identity.

Many other college newspapers in recent years have swallowed the poison pill and completely altered their print schedules, in some cases going so far as to slash the print product altogether.

But the Texan staff, led by then-editor Susannah Jacob, and the paper’s alumni weren’t going to let us succumb to that fate. (To their credit, the alumni rallied together in large numbers, taking out a full-page ad in the Texan to express their opposition to the change and creating the Friends of the Texan alumni group, which has helped raised money to continue the Texan’s education and journalistic missions.)

So instead, the board agreed to a 50 percent cut in all student wages to stanch at least some of the bleeding.

The staff took that change on the chin, but an even bigger threat was on the horizon.

That next spring, the board considered something even more drastic: making The Daily Texan the weekly Texan.

The mere proposal was enough to cause jitters, and serious discussions were had within the newsroom about what such a change would spell for the future of our operations.

We beat back this threat thanks to the generosity of President William Powers Jr.’s office, which promised us several hundred thousand dollars of transitional funding for three years to bridge the crevasse between financial obscurity and financial light.

That funding, along with a $1 million endowment for TSM obtained by the Moody College of Communication, is already putting us on a firmer financial footing and will take much of the anxiety out of future student editors’ jobs.

The lifeline we’ve been thrown won’t keep us afloat forever, but it will at the very least keep us bobbing along long enough for the changes implemented by TSM’s new professional director and advertising manager to take effect.

I have about a month left as editor of the Texan. Many things remain uncertain, but our immediate financial future isn’t one of them.

Brands is a linguistics senior from Austin. He is editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan.