UT student media staff to face layoffs

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Student photographers for The Daily Texan lost their long-time adviser Friday and several other UT student media employees lost their jobs to budget cuts as student publications compensate for declining ad revenue.

The Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees, the body that oversees The Daily Texan, Texas Student Television and other student publications, passed recommendations at Friday’s meeting to trim personnel for a savings of $190,000 and to open a bid to outsource delivery of The Daily Texan.

The recommendations still must be approved by Juan Gonzales, the Vice President for Student Affairs, so students who disagree with the opinion of the board can potentially appeal.

Jennifer Hammat, interim director of TSM, said the organization has a $500,000 budget deficit, so in order to retain the quality of UT’s student media, jobs had to be sacrificed to offset ad revenue losses.

“We’re going to have growing pains, we’re going to learn and there will be days where we struggle,” Hammat said. “In May, we’ll know a lot more. But I think we’ll also know if we made the right reductions to offset the losses that we’re looking at.”

Three delivery truck drivers, a web master, a photo adviser and other administrative employees will lose their jobs in December.

John Foxworth, the Daily Texan photo adviser since 1994, said he thought his job reduction was a done deal before he spoke to the board.

“It was supposed to be a position argument and it turned into more of a personnel thing — even though the board said they weren’t going to go there,” Foxworth said. “When I agreed to have it in open session, the interim director proceeded to say there was a personnel issue and then declined to speak about it, which put a black mark on me right away.”

Foxworth said the photo department will have a difficult transition period after he leaves.

“I was available at all hours of the week, and they won’t have that luxury anymore,” he said.

The reductions came as a part of a restructuring of TSM that will include the creation of a new job — multimedia adviser ­­­— and the consolidation of others. The position will act as an adviser to the photo and multimedia departments as well as consult on website production.

Wanda Cash, a journalism professor and member of the TSM board, said the most appealing aspect of the restructured organization is one of the new consolidated positions, the senior program coordinator, which will advise each student publication.

“The position offers us, for the first time, coordination, cooperation and convergence between all the different elements of our media conglomerate,” Cash said.

Lindsey Powers, the only member of the TSM board who voted against the restructuring, said current students did not have enough input into the decision to cut personnel.

During the meeting, Daily Texan photo editor Lauren Gerson said although Hammat performed a job evaluation, no one in the photo department was consulted. Gerson said the department depends on the adviser for equipment checkout, photography advice and camera quality.