Letter from the editor

There will be no issue of The California Aggie outside your lecture the first day of spring quarter. Or the next day. Or the next day.

Don’t freak out.

The first issue of a new California Aggie will be waiting for you that Thursday. We can’t promise four Sudoku puzzles, but we can promise an exciting version of the official UC Davis student-run newspaper we’ve all known and loved since 1915.

We’re moving to a weekly format, stressing long-form, in-depth journalism. Our issues will be fatter, not only with higher-quality writing but with more visuals and design.

We’re working on a new website that should be ready to roll before the quarter begins. It’ll be modern and sleek, with multimedia capabilities and room to grow for budding digital journalists. Blogs will be more active and our news editors — bless their hearts — will be updating around the clock, so you can always know what’s happening.

Personally, I’m excited about these changes. With no journalism major at UC Davis, The California Aggie is, and always has been, the best way for students to gain print journalism experience on campus.

But the news industry has been changing rapidly, and The Aggie has struggled to keep up. Focusing on getting a product out four days a week — when we’re all swamped with papers, midterms and attempting a social life every so often — leaves little room to try new things. It leaves little room for multimedia projects, digital skills and investigative pieces — the sorts of endeavors that employers want to see in a student-journalist’s portfolio. I’m confident that with a weekly format, we’ll finally have the time.

With the new Aggie, we’re going to try to be more transparent, too. We’re planning regular public meetings where interested parties can pitch story ideas, ask questions and critique us face-to-face. We will never improve unless we know what our readers want.

And, of course, we’re always accepting applications.

In that effort to be more transparent, I won’t lie to you. This move to weekly is largely motivated by finances.

It’s the same sad story that every print newspaper tells: Printing costs have gone up while advertising revenue has declined. On top of that, fewer and fewer people get their information from newspapers. It’s an uphill battle, and The Aggie started fighting it about eight years ago.

Editors in the past spent wonders on everything from salaries to banquets to awards. And now, the vast majority of people at The Aggie work unpaid. We can only cut so much to match our dropping income levels.

How do other student newspapers survive?

In the UC system, most newspapers receive some sort of support through student fees. We do not. The biggest newspapers have full-time, non-student business or advertising staff. We do not. We also know that other papers have experienced similar problems, have been making cuts and aren’t feeling too comfortable either.

We have hope that our new model will be better for both our staff — with training to become journalists in an industry that’s in constant redevelopment — and for our financial longevity. However, trends dictate that more will have to change.

If you are interested in learning more, come to the ASUCD Senate meeting tonight in the Mee Room. I’ll be presenting sometime after 8 p.m. and would love to hear your thoughts.

Likewise, if you believe in the importance of student press and want to donate, every little bit helps — look for a donations page on our new website come spring. And with that, I’ll stop getting all NPR on you.

JANELLE BITKER is available for questions, concerns and the occasional hug at editor@theaggie.org.

3 Comments

  • ml1999
    March 1, 2013

    Good luck, as a former Aggie writer, I wish you well. A few points.

    When I worked at The Aggie, we had 2 FT employees: an office and business manager. I never heard of a banquet or awards. I believe that most editors and such were paid a stipend of $200-300 a month, plus .50 per column inch, but that was 25-odd years ago.

    It’s true we had tuition of approximately $500 per quarter, which I think drives a lot of your pressure. On the flip side, we had all of the same time constraints, and the bonus of a wide-open college schedule. We (mostly) didn’t have cars, iPODs, iPhones, Internet, flat-screen TVs, or sushi. Things have changed.

    This said, I do have a few questions.

    Did you consider a 2- or 3-day a week schedule?

    Did you review the UCLA and UC Berkeley models?

    Was or is there any chance that ASUCD would allocate similar monies that are given at our sister institutions?

    I believe The Aggie to be a vital component to our campus, and having 32,000 students on campus is a sweet talent pool! They all will be looking forward to grad school or employment, and an empty resume doesn’t look good. Go Ags!

    • theaggie
      March 2, 2013

      This is Janelle responding. We did consider doing twice a week, but it would not have cut expenses down enough. Printing is expensive. We also have been in touch with most UC newspapers and are aware of the UCLA and UC Berkeley models, which include receiving student fees and having full-time business staff. Given how tight money is in the Association, it is/was highly unlikely that ASUCD would support us financially in the near enough future to avoid these changes.

      I am more than happy to discuss this further — along with the budgetary changes over the past ten years — via email.

  • February 28, 2013

    Good luck. Here’s hoping the Aggie regains its stature as a reliable, credible, and accurate information source at UC Davis. Certainly there’s a need for quality journalism on this campus.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Login »