The Daily Texan faces a crisis unique in its 113-year history. On March 1, Texas Student Media’s board of trustees may take a decision to reduce the number of days the newspaper is printed. The Daily Texan may thus find itself no longer a daily, but on the path now embraced by New Orleans’ Times-Picayune (that newspaper prints three days per week) and other newspapers. To put it bluntly, this is a step toward extinction.
The Daily Texan has the reputation of being one of the best student newspapers in the country, at times the best beyond dispute. It is an integral and vital part of UT’s culture. It has held the UT administration accountable for transparency and, indeed, honesty, acting as an important guardian of the integrity of our University.
At a time when the regents are attempting to micromanage the University and, in some respects, to change the mission of the University itself, we need The Daily Texan as much as anytime in its history, and in ours.
The Daily Texan’s revenue from advertising has fallen from $2.1 million in recent years to $1.3 million worth of advertisements last year. To reverse this decline is a clear priority. But it may be that this can be achieved by such steps as more effective local marketing, upgrading the website, introducing new apps for other new media platforms and seeking a student referendum to increase fees by a modest amount each semester to sustain the paper. Economies and changes in the operations of the paper may also be necessary. However, a cut in print days should not be the first reaction to financial difficulty.
Texan staff believe that the core of the paper’s success lies in delivering a daily product, on paper, that students, staff and faculty make it a habit to read. We think they are right, but in any event, the staff members of The Daily Texan themselves should be given the time and encouragement to work out solutions to the present difficulties, and support as needed to help put the paper back on a solid footing.
In short, a decision on reduction in the number of print days should not be taken by a snap of the fingers on March 1.
James K. Galbraith, Bentsen Chair in Government and Business Relations
Wm. Roger Louis, Kerr Chair in English History and Culture