TSM

Photo courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin. 

I was teaching happily at Purdue University when I got a job offer from UT in January of 1979. I accepted the offer and the next thing I did was take out a mail-order subscription to the Daily Texan. Knowing I’d be moving to Austin in June, I figured that reading the Texan would help me get to know the UT student body before arriving on campus.  

So my connection to Texas Student Media is a long one, and I now find myself in charge of its administrative side. Many details remain to be worked out, but, having spent the last three months studying TSM, our college is ready to take on the challenge. We’re honored, as well.

But why would any sane dean opt to oversee a student-based media operation during a time of upheaval? For me, the answer is simple and it’s personal. And it goes back a long way.  

I hail from a blue-collar town in the Northeast. My uncle, Roy Hart, drove one of the big trucks that delivered copies of the Providence Journal to newsstands throughout Rhode Island. He got up at 3 o’clock in the morning to do so. An uncle on my mother’s side, Jim Sullivan, spent his career as a transmitter engineer for WJAR radio; he had the evening shift and got home when my uncle Roy was getting out of bed.  

My father-in-law, Dave McVey, spent forty years laying out the pages of the New Bedford Standard Times. Like many of those employed by a metro daily, Dave worked odd hours, so his neighbors would have a newspaper on their doorsteps at 6 a.m.

Ancient times, those.  We now tuck our newspapers-cum-mobile devices under our pillows when going to sleep and we wake up with them — refreshed — eight hours later.  

But it’s still the people, not the devices, who make journalism what it is.  

Each day, I labor in the shadow of Dewitt Reddick, the first dean of my college and the person who taught journalism to Lady Bird Johnson, Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers. 

Each day, I work with dedicated faculty members like Tracy Dahlby, Wanda “Fluffy” Cash and Glenn Frankel who teach today’s students those same values. I work, too, with younger faculty members like Rob Quigley, Kris Wilson and Marla Camp who help our students write for a digital age.

When I think about the Daily Texan, then, my mind turns to the people I’ve known over the years, including those who are no longer with us — people like Mike Quinn, who covered the Kennedy assassination, and Red Gibson, who wrote for the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News before coming back to Texas to teach our students.  

I think, too, about the former Daily Texan staffers I’ve gotten to know during my years as dean — people like Karen Elliott House, Karen Tumulty, David Powell, Mary Walsh and Beth Frerking, all of whom became top-notch professionals because of their work on the Texan, and all of whom say yes whenever I ask for their help.  

The Friends of the Daily Texan, the Texan’s alumni association, buoy me up as well. People like Griff Singer, Cliff Avery, John Reetz and Jeff Cohen constantly reach out to me, asking how they can help.

Surely this is strange. All these successful people still worried about an extracurricular activity from their youth. At this point in their lives, they can all afford good scotch. Why not just sit back and drink?

Three reasons: They love journalism, they understand its importance, and they know it must be protected at all costs. I believe in these things too, but I believe even more in young people. I believe in Laura Wright, the glorious editor of this paper. I believe in Susannah Jacob, Laura’s predecessor and a success waiting to happen. I believe in Jody Serrano, as hard-headed a reporter as you can find, and I believe in Sarah-Grace Sweeney, a lilting writer who, like most journalists, can’t keep a secret.  

Texas Student Media has its challenges, but the challenges don’t stand a chance because we’ve got people on our side. We’ve got a president who believes in a free press and who works for a university that values truth above all else. We’ve got a school of journalism celebrating its centennial this year, and we’ve got faculty and alumni who cherish TSM.  Mostly, though, we’ve got the students. They are brash, nosy, relentless, cold-blooded, often bad-mannered, and constantly impatient. They work sixty hours a week for TSM, and I respect them profoundly. I love them too. For me, it’s personal.

Hart is the Dean of the Moody College of Communication. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

One day after The Daily Texan reported Texas Student Media properties were moving under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, the University appointed TSTV-KVRX studio engineer Frank Serpas interim director of TSM. As he steps into his new job, it remains unclear what the lasting impact of the move to the college might be. 

In a letter he addressed to TSM stakeholders, Serpas acknowledged the financial issues of TSM and said the Moody college has an inherent interest in TSM’s success.

“TSM’s charter is to educate students, serve audiences and remain solvent,” Serpas said. “Though the educational mission is paramount, at present solvency is the most urgent concern.”

Serpas also addressed certain questions raised by Daily Texan alumni and supporters. Former Editor-in-Chief John Schwartz, who is now a correspondent at The New York Times, said he was unsure what the Moody college’s involvement would mean for the Texan’s operations.

“I have great respect for the UT journalism school — I love the people in it, but not everyone in journalism goes through the journalism school,” Schwartz said. “The thing I love about journalism is that it’s more trade than profession, and anyone can walk in through the door. The more closely the Texan is tied to the school, the less likely you are to have those walk-ins.” 

Schwartz said his main concern as an alumnus is the possibility of restrictions being placed on the Texan’s employment practices.

“I don’t want a structure to arise that makes it harder for an idiot like me to walk in off the street and end up changing his life — and his career,” Schwartz said. “I was going to be a lawyer.”

In the letter, Serpas said he wants to preserve students’ control of their content and equal opportunity to the entire UT student body. 

“I was not a communications major, so I appreciate that TSM welcomes students irrespective of their fields of study,” Serpas said.

While some administrators and alumni work to address the questions that have arisen as the result of the move, others question how the decision was made in the first place. A.J. Bauer, treasurer of alumni support group Friends of The Daily Texan, said he does not understand how the change can be made without amending the student Declaration of Trust.

The Declaration of Trust was created in 1971, when Texas Student Productions — which later became TSM — was engaged in a legal battle with the UT System Board of Regents over the control of its financial assets and student editorial content. Unlike student productions’ earlier charter from 1922, the new trust made the organization an independent entity, although its assets and certain staff positions were still to be controlled by the regents.

“I’m waiting to see how they justify [the move],” Bauer said. “The Declaration of Trust is a legal document that can’t just be overlooked.”

Gage Paine, the vice president of student affairs, acknowledged that little student input went into the decision, but said this was a result of inaction on the part of the TSM Board members themselves. Paine said when she spoke to TSM Board members at a meeting in September, she made it clear her office was open to hearing feedback.

“We left [the meeting] with a pretty clear message that it was ongoing, that no decision was made that day and that we were open to hearing people’s thoughts and concerns and ideas,” Paine said. “Not a whole lot of people came and knocked on my door and said, ‘I really need to talk to you about it.’ … It’s true I never contacted them, because I had opened the door.”

Paine said, ultimately, it was President William Powers Jr.’s decision. 

“The president decides [the administrative home of TSM],” Paine said. “It’s his decision. It wasn’t a vote … did anyone pick up the phone and poll the board members? No.”

Paine said administrators were planning to tell the TSM property managers about the move to the Moody college on Friday.

Paine also said she wanted to make clear the decision was not an act of desperation by her office or a power play on the part of college.

“The dean isn’t grabbing [TSM],” Paine said. “And I’m not punting it.”

Texas Student Media recently named Jalah Goette the interim acting director Wednesday after Gary BordersÂ’ resignation last month. Her first priority will be balancing the projected $175,000 TSM budget deficit for 2012.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Student Media assistant director Jalah Goette will serve as interim TSM director until someone is selected to permanently fill the position, the TSM Board of Trustees decided Wednesday.

Goette’s appointment comes almost exactly one month after the former TSM director Gary Borders’ Feb. 8 resignation, which Borders later said was forced by vice president of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez.

Goette will hold the position for an undetermined amount of time because the TSM board has higher priorities, Goette said.

“Based off what the board said, there is no defined timeline for how long I am needed to act as the director,” she said. “The priority right now is to stabilize the organization and identify a plan to balance the budget as soon as possible.”

TSM currently faces a projected $175,000 deficit for 2012, according to the TSM consolidated financial summary.

“Our only problem is the budget,” said TSM board president Lindsey Powers. “The students are great and all the publications and stations are great. It’s just the budget, and [Goette] has already been working so hard on that so we really think she’ll do a good job.”

Goette, who has been with TSM for six years, said she will oversee the day-to-day business of TSM as director in addition to her current duties as assistant director, in which she oversees TSM business and advertising. Goette said she did not apply for the position, but showed interest in serving during the interim time. The TSM board reviewed Goette’s qualifications and selected her at a board meeting Wednesday.

“In the coming weeks I’ll have a chance to sit down with the chair of the board and find out the specifics of the job description,” Goette said. “I’ll find out how different duties can be shared.”

Goette said she is proud of the improved communication between the TSM board members, students and the University in the past few weeks since the controversy over Borders’ resignation, and she hopes to continue it.

“Communication is essential to the success of TSM,” she said. “I am so pleased with the way everyone has pulled together recently to build a strong line of communication.”

KVRX station manager Travis Bubenik said Goette is a good fit for the position because of her years of experience with TSM.

“I just wanted to be sure we didn’t appoint someone outside of TSM because the problems are just too complicated, and we don’t have time to throw someone in there out of nowhere,” Bubenik said. “She has a great budget presentation and knows the finances of TSM like the back of her hand. It was a wise move to appoint her.”

As the Texas Student Media Board of Trustees meets this morning to discuss specific issues regarding the circumstances surrounding the recent resignation of director Gary Borders, the organization also faces ongoing repercussions of financial and staffing problems that have accumulated over the past few years.

A budget deficit, falling advertising revenue and recurrent vacancies in critical leadership roles are affecting TSM’s ability to operate. While budget deficits and falling advertising revenue are problems that plague college media nationwide, some problems may have arisen from TSM’s unique structure.

“No other collegiate media entity that I am aware of has a governing board and University reporting [requirement],” said Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president of student affairs and a former interim director of TSM.

A board of operating trustees governs TSM, which is not independent of UT. Its entities include The Daily Texan, TSTV, KVRX 91.7 FM, The Cactus Yearbook and The Texas Travesty, a humor publication. The director of TSM reports to both the vice president of student affairs and the TSM board of trustees. The Declaration of Trust for the organization states an endowment of $5 million would allow TSM to become an independent entity, but unless such an endowment is made, TSM employees are considered employees of the University.

The involvement of the Office of Student Affairs in employment matters has become a source of conflict at TSM in recent days. Borders told the Texan that Juan Gonzalez, the outgoing vice president of student affairs, forced his Feb. 8 resignation after Borders raised the ideas of selling TSM’s television and radio licenses. Gonzalez said he followed policy involving university personnel performance with regard to Borders’ resignation.

Wanda Cash, associate director of the School of Journalism and former TSM board member, said personnel performance issues were previously handled much differently, including when she was on the board.

“If there were performance issues, the vice president of student affairs contacted me, and then in consultation with the president of the board we worked out what had arisen,” Cash said. “This time that did not happen and that’s what is very troubling. The vice president of student affairs acted alone in terminating the director.”

Board member Tim Lott, vice president of audience strategy for the Cox Media Group, said the board was unaware there was a problem with Borders’ performance.

“I literally had no idea there was any sort of problem that could potentially end in a termination,” Lott said.

Borders was the third director TSM had seen in as many years. Kathy McCarty departed TSM in 2009 after serving 15 years. Hammat served as the interim director for nearly two years and participated in one failed search for a replacement until Borders was hired in summer 2011 after a second search. The board will discuss the possibility of appointing a an interim TSM director this morning.

Meanwhile, the search has not yet begun for a replacement for Jennifer Rubin, former multimedia adviser who departed in October 2011 after six months on the job.

Board member Mark Morrison, a lecturer in the journalism school, said it’s imperative a replacement is found quickly.

“We need to establish leadership,” Morrison said.

While facing absent leadership, TSM has a March 19 budget deadline looming. The organization is already facing the effects of a budget deficit.

The 2011-2012 annual budget has a projected $175,252 deficit that draws from the organization’s reserve fund that fell to $723,665.55 in November. Advertising revenue for TSM has declined from $2,326,411 four years ago, to $1,509,839 last year.

Texas Student Television is the only TSM entity budgeted for a profit this year.

The Daily Texan, which accounts for 89 percent of TSM advertising revenue, has seen changes in the three years since it last posted profit.

Since 2009, The Daily Texan has sold its press, outsourced printing and distribution, which resulted in staff layoffs and is making plans to reduce summer print production to once weekly. A second round of layoffs among TSM professional staff followed a reorganization in 2011.

Borders’ claim that he was dismissed because of budget-cutting proposals has led Cash to question the vice president’s role.

“The issue here is: is it right for the Office of Student Affairs to continue oversight as the president’s designee of Texas Student Media?” asked Cash.

Cash said she believes revising the Declaration of Trust to make the dean of the College of Communication the University’s designee to oversee TSM, instead of the office of student affairs, would be a better arrangement than the current one.

“In the College of Communication we have an understanding of journalism,” Cash said. “We have the right sensibility of journalism — of first amendment rights, of freedom of the press and our common disdain for prior restraint and censorship. I’m not sure the office of student affairs shares that sensibility.”

Regardless of who is the university’s designee for oversight of TSM, board president and third-year law student Lindsey Powers said the University needs to remember common courtesy when communicating with the board of trustees.

“I think a lot of people have forgotten how important it is to consult a board,” Powers said.

Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer for the University, was recently appointed by President William Powers Jr. to investigate the circumstances of Borders’ termination.

Although Hegarty said the board should be granted the courtesy of consultation before terminating employees, he said because the University is the employer of TSM’s employees, Borders was subject to termination by the University. He said the University had more say in TSM’s operations than a yearly performance review.

“The role of the University is to counsel, to coach and to do what it can to support the board of trustees,” Hegarty said.

Hegarty said he hopes University and TSM relations improve after today’s meeting.

“The intent is to be very consultative and to come to solutions that are collaborative and cooperative,” Hegarty said. “Hopefully we can move forward.”

Former Texas Student Media director Gary Borders said Thursday that his Feb. 8 resignation came under pressure from the office of the Vice President of Student Affairs rather than because of personal reasons as had been previously announced.

After serving as TSM director for seven months, Borders announced his resignation abruptly last week. Borders spoke out Thursday saying he did not wish to resign, but chose it rather than being fired. Borders said he was not given a warning or valid reason for what he said was a forced resignation by the Student Affairs vice president Juan Gonzalez.

“I was called to meet with Mr. Gonzalez last week and he told me I had to resign or be fired,” Borders said. “It was a very brief meeting. I was stunned.”

Gonzalez, who announced in July he will be leaving the vice presidency to return to teaching, told The Daily Texan in an email that all university employment policies were followed.

“Mr. Borders decided to resign after meeting with my office about employment expectations,” Gonzalez said. “Had Mr. Borders not decided to resign, UT employment policies would have continued to have been followed in my office in consultation with the Board of Consultation Trustees.”

Members of the TSM Board of Trustees, which jointly oversees TSM with the office of student affairs, expressed frustration over not being consulted about Borders’ departure.

Student Media Board President Lindsey Powers said she was surprised by Borders’ resignation and was unaware of whether the Vice President’s office forced him to leave.

“I have not heard anything officially or legally,”

Powers said. “I would like some answers.”

Borders said Gonzalez told him he was “not collaborative” and was not doing enough to balance the budget.

As one of his primary responsibilities, Borders was expected to help TSM overcome a projected deficit of about $175,000, according to a letter from the vice president’s office. He said the office balked at some of his suggestions for doing so.

Borders said his proposal, which was never made official, suggested selling TSTV and KVRX in an attempt to gain $3 million for TSM, and this might have played a role in his forced resignation. Borders said Student Affairs assistant vice president Jennifer Hammat told him Gonzalez did not support the idea at all.

“I had talked to Mrs. Hammat about the idea before I wrote it up and she did not say she agreed with it, but she didn’t say it was completely crazy either,” Borders said. “We talked again after she showed it to Gonzalez and she said he absolutely hated it and was very upset about it.”

Borders said when he learned Gonzalez did not like the proposal he immediately began a new one suggesting different ways to make money for TSM. He said the reasons for his forced resignation are invalid because he attempted to improve the budget and collaborate with coworkers.

“I was just seeing if it was a viable option, and when I learned it wasn’t, I got to work on new ideas,” Borders said. “It wasn’t my way or the highway.”

Borders said he did not have a contract and was told he was hired “under the pleasure of the president” and could, therefore, be terminated at any time. Although Borders is upset by the forced resignation without any warning, he said there is no legal issue.

“I was never evaluated before that meeting,” Borders said. “I was never before given a warning about what I needed to change or do differently. I was never reprimanded. Nothing.”

Powers said the TSM board is planning a meeting soon to discuss an interim replacement for the position. The University originally scheduled a meeting for today but a quorum of board members was unable to attend.

Borders previously worked for newspapers throughout East Texas where he served as publisher and columnist, according to his website.

Previously publisher of Cedar Park’s Hill Country News, Borders said he hoped to hold the TSM position for as long as possible, according to a June 2011 Daily Texan article. He replaced Hammat, who served as interim director for a year and a half.

Associate director of the School of Journalism and former TSM board member Wanda Cash said although she was not on the board at the same time as Borders she has known him for a long time and believes he had good intentions for TSM.

“He understood keenly about balancing budgets and was on his way to cutting the deficit at TSM,” Cash said. “I hope his goal of debt reduction will be continued. TSM will not be able to survive on a deficit.”

Gary Borders starts his new job as Texas Student Media director June 20. Borders steps into the position amid budget cuts and a reduction in the number of weekly print days for The Daily Texan.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Newly appointed Texas Student Media director Gary Borders said the future of the UT media outlets lies in increasing the use of technology and cooperation between TSM branches to maximize quality coverage.

Borders begins his job as TSM director June 20, replacing interim director Jennifer Hammat who worked in the position for a year and a half. He received his masters degree in journalism from UT and will leave his post as publisher of Cedar Park’s Hill County News.

As he steps into the position, Borders will see the impact of shrinking budgets as The Daily Texan reduces its print editions from five days a week to only publishing Mondays and Thursdays because of budget cuts, but he said he does not fear for the future of print newspapers.

“There’s no doubt that the landscape has shifted over the last few years,” Borders said. “But I think the printed product is really going to be around for a long time. It is a great vehicle for advertisers and people will always want to have something to hold in their hands when they sit down to have a cup of coffee.”

Borders, a former newspaper writer, editor and photographer said he hopes to see more synergy between The Daily Texan, KVRX and TSTV.

“At my last job in Cedar Park, I wrote the story, took pictures and used my iPhone to take video,” Borders said. “It’s what you have to do. It’s what they are doing out there.”

Borders said he hopes to hold the position for as long as possible and will wait to fully understand the operation of TSM before he makes any significant changes.

Hammat said she knows with Borders’ previous experience, she is leaving her staff in the right hands.

“The job entails having great administrative oversight but also letting competent people do their job,” Hammat said.
“I feel like we’ve done the right thing by hiring Gary.”

Hammat said budget issues and reorganization challenges filled the past 20 months when she served as interim director, but she feels sure Gary and the staff will continue strong.

Former Daily Texan editor-in-chief Lauren Winchester said the Texan is cutting its summer printing schedule because of the budget cuts TSM faces.

“We couldn’t afford to keep the paper printing five days a week this summer,” Winchester said. “We considered doing this since last summer but we were able to put it off until this one.”

Winchester said financial concerns caused the reduction, but the Texan staff hopes that by only printing two days a week they can be pushed toward the necessary online mind-set. The Texan will resume daily printing in
the fall.

Daily Texan editor-in-chief Viviana Aldous said this summer, the staff will focus on creating a more prominent and effective online presence for the Texan.

“We are trying to use our website as a breathing, living thing that responds to our readership,” Aldous said. “We are hoping to expand our coverage for more effective and productive use of the website and digital media.”