LSU students and alumni have been voicing concerns over ongoing discussions about possibly cutting the print schedule of the university’s storied Daily Reveille campus newspaper.
A public meeting scheduled Aug. 22 will give them a chance to discuss the future of campus media with LSU leaders.
More than 130 supporters have signed an online petition that calls for the decisions about The Reveille’s future to be made by students. Many of those who have signed the petition have left messages about how much the experience working at the campus newspaper has meant to them and their careers.
Incoming Reveille editor Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez also signed, thanking the crowd that’s now rallying around the paper and joining in the discussion about the future of the student-run paper that once challenged Gov. Huey Long.
“As the incoming Reveille editor, I am proud to have so many stand with me who agree The Daily Reveille is first and foremost a teaching tool, and worth fighting for,” Zamudio-Suarez wrote.
A Facebook group has become an active message board for Reveille alumni to vent concerns and share information. A social media campaign is being plotted that will feature photos of students working at The Reveille, and alumni have been working on ways to donate money to support The Reveille’s future.
The Reveille prints five times a week — a schedule that’s been in place since 2002 but that could change based on ideas that are being floated by the university’s new Student Media director, Steve Buttry.
Buttry, who is recognized nationally as a digital innovator, first came to LSU last year as the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Lamar visiting scholar. He took on the Student Media director job in May.
In an interview with The Advocate, Buttry suggested that a shift a weekly or twice-a-week publication might be better financially and give students a chance to spend more time learning and navigating a media structure that’s shifting toward online.
In the weeks since The Advocate first reported that a print reduction could be in the works, Buttry has published several blog posts on the discussion and fielded emails, phone calls and in-person meetings from alumni.
Buttry has repeatedly sought to stress the inclusiveness of the strategy process.
“All discussions and decisions about our future strategy will involve the students and will be made to provide the best experience and education for current and future students,” he said in a recent statement.
Buttry has cited revenue concerns as one reason to re-evaluate Student Media’s strategy.
According to figures he provided to The Advocate, The Reveille’s revenue fell 21 percent between the budget year that ended June 30 and the previous year — from $712,000 to $563,000. The Reveille operated at a loss both years — relying on a rainy day fund to cover $283,000 last year and $142,000 the previous year. About $200,000 of The Reveille’s budget is supplemented by student fees.
Leaders are compiling budgets that stretch farther back to show long-term trends, but The Reveille’s financial snapshot reflects the overall struggles facing the newspaper industry, with dwindling advertising revenue and readers’ growing reliance on getting their news via the Internet — particularly young readers. The shift has impacted campus newspapers across the country, with several student publications cutting back their print frequency in recent years.
Buttry noted that his own alma mater, Texas Christian University, scaled back its print schedule to focus more on online delivery.
According to Buttry, of the 10,000 copies of The Reveille printed each day, returns — copies that are still in the racks the following day — average about 3,000.
“I hope the Reveille alumni who are distressed at the thought of losing ‘daily’ from the product’s name will see that as responsible management of our resources,” Buttry wrote. “I also hope the alumni will see that the need to re-examine our strategy is urgent.”
Buttry’s lengthy strategy document, which was meant to carry discussions through the summer until students return and was an extension of ideas he floated during his interviews for the director’s job, offers several other suggestions for growing The Reveille and other campus media offerings.
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.