director of Texas Student Media

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.

Jalah Goette  
Texas Student Media director

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Jalah Goette, director of Texas Student Media, announced Friday that she will be stepping down from her position at the end of January.

TSM oversees The Daily Texan, Texas Student TV, KVRX radio, Cactus Yearbook and Texas Travesty, a humor publication.

“I have enjoyed my time with Texas Student Media and have appreciated the opportunity to work with you and the many other students that have been associated with TSM,” Goette said in an email to student managers and editors. “After eight years, it is time for me to move on to take the next step in my career.”

Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president for student affairs and the person who oversees the director position, said currently there is no timeline to appoint an interim director.

Goette became interim director in March 2012 and was appointed by the TSM Board of Operating Trustees as permanent director in November 2012. Goette stepped in during a period of controversy when former director Gary Borders said he was forced to resign by the University after discussing the possibility of selling the TV station’s federal operating license. Before that, Goette — a UT alumna — had served in various roles at the organization including as the assistant director overseeing advertising and business operations.

“I want to thank Jalah Goette for her eight years of service to Texas Student Media, where she has been a vital asset to the organization,” said Dave Player, third-year law student and president of the TSM board. “We wish her all the best in her next endeavor.”

Goette’s resignation will mark the fourth change in the director position in four years. Hammat, who served as interim director from October 2009 to June 2011, said the University will likely take a close look at the job description of the position before moving forward.

“Clearly, the way we’ve structured it hasn’t yielded us longevity,” Hammat said.

Currently, TSM is tackling a number of potential changes in its structure. The entity is housed in the Division of Student Affairs, though since earlier this semester, there have been discussions about possibly moving it to the Moody College of Communication. Hammat said Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College, has been notified of Goette’s resignation but said no decisions have been made, and that the next seven weeks before Goette leaves will give the University some time to think about the best next step.

“If we’re looking for the right administrative home for TSM, then we need to make sure we’re talking to the [Moody College],” Hammat said. “We need to at least give it enough time to breathe so we can formulate what the options are.”

Last year, TSM offset a $190,000 shortfall in revenue by dipping into its reserve funds. The board will be setting a budget in March for the 2014-15 fiscal year and asked Goette in November to come up with two budget plans: one that maintains the status quo and one that makes several changes to the current structure. Hammat said she still hopes to see preliminary budget plans before Goette leaves.

Ian Reese, Texas Student TV station manager, said he enjoyed working with Goette in his current capacity and felt that she communicated well with students and staff. Reese said her resignation comes at an inopportune time as he feels the organization is in need of leadership and a point person on budget issues.

“It brings up the question on what the game plan is now on how TSM is going to operate in the next year,” Reese said.

Player said the board will continue developing a new business plan.

“We are excited for what the future has to offer for our student media,” Player said.