Tuesday, February 19, 2013

About a week ago, I heard the stunning news that the Marquette Tribune would likely be cut to eight pages per issue, down from 16 and 20 on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively. As a former Tribune staffer and current reader, this distressed me. So when offered the chance, I submitted a letter to the editor protesting the cuts and especially the careless way they were enacted:

Does the Board for Student Media see The Marquette Tribune as a publication or just a line in the budget? After recent events, it’s hard to be sure.

Reducing the number of pages will certainly make printing cheaper. But when the board suggested this, no one could say exactly how much the change will save, how much student media needs to save, or how much alternatives to page cuts would save.

Working quickly to address student media’s financial concerns is admirable. Halving the Tribune’s flagship after a single afternoon’s conversation is absurd. The implication is that the print version of the Tribune can be altered at the board’s convenience, readers and staff be damned.

Maybe this is an isolated incident. There are positive signs — the board is wisely avoiding cuts to staff, and its latest statement said it is open to compromise. But if this shortsignedness persists, the Tribune’s biggest problem won’t be declining ad revenue or budget cuts, but the indifference of the Board for Student Media.

For me, the worst part is not the cuts themselves, but how rapidly and carelessly they were imposed. There are real financial concerns here — printing thousands of papers isn’t cheap — but you cannot leap in and change things carelessly. Hopefully, that was made clear by my letter.

Although it is true that the Marquette Tribune can report and write the same number of articles and publish them online because staff levels are unaffected, the print copy is the primary or even the only version many readers encounter. That will probably change over time, but for now the Marquette Tribune and specifically its print version, is the main way students stay informed about the Marquette community.

Despite being blindsided1 by these cuts, the staff has done an admirable job of defending themselves and making the case for continued funding for the full-length physical paper. The editorial presents a detailed defense. Also, you can read every columnist’s take in the Viewpoints section. (Scroll down to find the letters to the editor.) In particular, read Tori Dykes’ letter, which I tumbl’d earlier today.

  1. As I understand it, the lone representative from the Marquette Tribune, editor-in-chief Andrew Phillips, had no idea cuts were on the agenda when he walked into the meeting.