Daily Cal Budget Woes Force Production Cuts

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Starting next week, the 137-year-old Daily Californian will be cutting a day of publication, finding itself vulnerable to a national epidemic of reductions in print ad revenue.

On Wednesdays, the independent UC Berkeley student paper will only publish an online version as it feels the pinch of the financial crisis that is spreading to professional newspapers across the country.

The paper's management decided on the cut after the projected shortfall was more than $100,000, even after earlier reductions, said editor in chief and president Bryan Thomas. The paper's annual operating budget is nearly $1 million.

"There were warnings in the last few months," Thomas said. "It became clear in June that severe action was needed. Last spring all salaried positions took a temporary 10 percent cut."

The biggest component of the Daily Cal's ad revenue comes from national agencies, which generated significantly less revenue in the months leading up to the summer, Thomas said, adding that the paper will not hire as many new staff members this year.

Indicators of the local business climate came in March and April from local newspapers, when the East Bay Daily News shut down and the Berkeley Daily Planet dropped from two days of publication per week to one.

"The ripple effect is just hitting college papers," said Logan Aimone, executive director of the Associated Collegiate Press. "It's an uphill battle. The summer has been brutal and hundreds ... of jobs in commercial newsrooms are being cut."

All professional and college papers are coping with a shift to online news. Financial struggles forced students at Howard University in Washington, D.C. to cut the print version of their daily paper, The Hilltop, altogether in March.

Several years after UCLA's Daily Bruin considered asking for a student fee referendum to save the paper, the staff is using grant money to enhance their Web site in hopes of increasing ad revenue and student interest.

"It's stressful because here and at professional newspapers the majority of our revenue still is not coming from online," said Anthony Pesce, editor in chief of the Daily Bruin.

Since the Daily Cal launched its new Web site last spring, the number of views has increased significantly. As it tries to create a business paradigm to fit changing media demands, the staff has added video to online articles and ads, Thomas said.

"This is a very stressful time in the journalism world. No one has figured out a sustainable economic model for news on paper. The Daily Cal is not exempt from these larger market forces," said Tom Goldstein, head of UC Berkeley's mass communications department.

This is not the first time the Daily Cal has cut publication days. In September 1993, the paper dropped to three days and eventually two days a week because of poor financial management, finally regaining stability in 1995. But in the '90s, the problem wasn't industry-wide.

"Until a business model can be found that can support journalism on the Web, journalism is in peril," said Neil Henry, dean of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. "On Wednesday, students and everyone are going to miss the paper."

Aside from improving online features and cutting costs, Thomas said The Daily Californian Education Foundation hopes to include its endowment fund in the campus's capital fundraising campaign this year.

"I am optimistic that at some point we can get that day of publication back," said John Oppedahl, former chair of the Daily Cal board of directors and editor in chief in 1966. "Until then, students and staff will have to rely on the online publication."


Contact Newsdesk at [email protected]

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