At its annual budget meeting Tuesday, the Texas Student Media board voted to keep The Daily Texan on its five-day a week print schedule after Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communications, promised to ask President William Powers Jr. for transitional funding to prevent TSM bankruptcy.
“Moody will have a viable business plan in place by fall of 2017 that will put TSM on road for success,” Hart said in the meeting. “I am highly optimistic about our ability to turn around the TSM budget proposal.”
TSM oversees five properties — The Daily Texan, Texas Travesty, KVRX, TSTV and the Cactus Yearbook — and has faced advertising revenue challenges in keeping with national trends over the last several years. In January, The Daily Texan reported that TSM properties would be moved from under the domain of the office of student affairs and into Moody College. Many questions about the implications of the move remain unanswered.
In his original proposal, Frank Serpas, interim director of TSM, introduced a plan that would cut the Texan’s print schedule to once a week, which he said was the only viable solution if the board wanted to avoid draining TSM reserves.
At Friday’s meeting, Serpas said the budget for this year originally showed a loss of $115,000, but actually produced a loss of over $147,000.
In the meeting, Hart also promised TSM would have access to Moody College’s six person development team and said the team would give TSM a “prominent but not dominant” role in the development portfolio.
“I think there are alums out there who are concerned and want to help, but development takes a long time, unfortunately,” Hart told the Texan after the meeting. “The idea is to build a structure — but the president has to help us in the interim because development takes time.”
In an interview in January, Powers said he was open to considering short-term solutions like the transitional funding.
“There have been all kinds of suggestions for the revenue gap — even to the point of some bridge help from the University,” Powers said. “I think [TSM properties] are very important, both in terms of learning and community building on campus. I’m a big supporter.”
Powers said he wanted to be cautious of the line between assistance and control.
“[The Daily Texan] really does need to be independent, and the board does need to be independent of the administration,” Powers said. “On the other hand, we’re here to help.”
Jeff Cohen, TSM board member and Houston Chronicle executive editor, suggested the board read a report issued by the Friends of the Daily Texan, a group of alumni who formally organized last year to help support the organization. The media committee’s report, “The Texan: From Crisis to Recovery in 12 Months,” outlines 66 ideas to increase TSM revenue.
The report’s suggestions range from focusing on local advertisers on Guadalupe Street to printing free bridal announcements and holding weekly contests.
Dave Player, TSM board president and third-year law student, said Hart's announcement came as a major source of relief.
"That's welcome news," Player said. "This apocalyptic threat we've been juggling is much more imaginary than it was yesterday."
TSM board members also discussed the properties’ digital future and outreach efforts.
Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president for student affairs, said one complication in TSM’s efforts is that it is unclear who is charge of the website. Hammat expressed concerns that administrative efforts to redesign the website, or include advertisers in digital messaging, would be taken as content infringement by TSM student managers.
“[We need to] look at the process, and do better at clarifying what is process and what is management,” Hammat said. “You have to take a closer look at how content is defined, and how it is interpreted.”
Hammat also addressed issues of student turnover, which she said are not helpful for long-term plans.
“Even if students commit [to a plan], their successors don’t always commit,” Hammat said.
This article has been updated since its original posting. Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of the story misquoted Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication. Hart said The Daily Texan will be a "prominent but not dominant" part of a fundraising portfolio.