Gerald Johnson

TSM Board President Mary Dunn speaks at the TSM board meeting Friday afternoon in the Belo Center for New Media. This is the first time the organization will not have to dip into its reserves since 2007.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time since 2007, Texas Student Media (TSM), now under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, will not have to pull from its reserves at the end of the fiscal year. 

TSM, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.  

In a TSM Board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from the office of President William Powers Jr. to help cover anticipated deficits in the next three years. The allocation, which Johnson called a “budget mitigator,” will come at the end of the fiscal year. 

“The collective financial assistance that we’re being given really stops the organization from having to continually pull from our reserves at the rate we’ve previously had to do every year,” TSM Board President Mary Dunn said. “It allows us to focus more on innovation and creating a better educational experience rather than focusing on stopping the financial bleed that was potentially going to kill the organization.”  

Dunn said TSM’s reserves, or savings, are currently sitting at under $200,000. If TSM is under budget at the end of the fiscal year, then the organization can pull from the budget mitigator allocation. In recent years, TSM has had to withdraw close to $200,000 annually from its reserves. 

“It’s definitely not all solved,” Dunn said. “This is the very crucial first step, and it’s a significant first step in the right direction. So going forward, it’s imperative that we continue to figure out the most effective and efficient way of spending money and making money.” 

Johnson also announced utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save TSM an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.” 

Additionally, in a few years, TSM will begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from a $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart, according to Johnson. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road that, if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Arjun Mocherla, vice president of the TSM Board, said the $1 million endowment and financial support from the Office of the President could be the end of TSM’s financial woes.

“I think this is a good year for TSM,” Mocherla said. “It pretty much signifies the beginning of upward momentum for Texas Student Media.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

More than a year after Texas Student Media moved under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, the organization is projected to profit in its first quarter.

TSM, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.

In a TSM board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from President William Powers, Jr.'s office to help cover anticipated budget deficits in the next three years.

Johnson also announced that utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save Texas Student Media an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” board president Mary Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.”

Additionally, TSM will eventually begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road, that if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Gerald Johnson, former director of local advertising and digital services for the Houston Chronicle, has been named the new director of Texas Student Media, effective July 21. 

The appointment comes after TSM’s transition from the Division of Student Affairs to operating under the Moody College of Communication. 

“I am sincerely excited to be around creative people who typically don’t use a newspaper like people in the past generations have,” Johnson said.“I’m excited to see what their innovations and ideas are and just to be surrounded by a group of intelligent and creative people who ultimately want to get their message out but have great ideas on how to make that financially viable.”

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 March, TSM interim director Frank Serpas said this year’s budget originally showed a loss of $115,000, but actually produced a loss of over $147,000.

Dave Player, law student and recent TSM Board of Operating Trustees president, said Johnson’s appointment serves as a good sign of what the working relationship with the Moody college will look like.

“He’s an extremely qualified candidate who had a really good background in media and knows Texas markets,” Player said. “Hopefully he brings new stability to the position, which is something we certainly need.”

During his tenure at the Houston Chronicle and Hearst Media, Johnson led a number of business development teams representing $12 million in annual revenue.

“One of the reasons I’ve been able to do that is that I’ve been able to balance the needs and desires of the editorial staff with how advertising works and what potential clients expect from a particular publication,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who will be tasked with day-to-day operations, said he believes TSM will benefit from more targeted sales efforts, utilization of existing content and an updated circulation model. According to Johnson, revenue could also be increased by the incorporation of advertorial — third party content that’s made to look more official — but editorial content connects with readers more so than advertorial does.

“When I have the choice, I always prefer editorial over advertorial…it has more credibility with the readers,” Johnson said. “Your readers, especially in a daily newspaper, get to know and love their columnists and the people who are writing for the publication.” 

At TSM's annual budget meeting in March, Hart said the Moody college will have a viable business plan in place by fall of 2017 to place TSM on the path back to financial stability. Hart requested transitional funding from President William Powers, Jr. to prevent TSM bankruptcy while the new business plan is developed.

KUT Radio director Stewart Vanderwilt said Johnson’s appointment is the first step in that process. 

“He presented and demonstrated a track record and a passion for securing revenue to support journalism and media enterprises and a belief in the role that student media has, not only in shaping our future careers, but in the community it serves,” Vanderwilt said. “There’s a lot of listening and learning to be done but my sense is that there’s a great deal of motivation in all quarters to achieve success.”

This story has been updated since its original publication.