The future of the Statesman is no longer black and white.
According to an article in the New York Times, 2009 was the worst year for the newspaper business in decades. Advertising revenue dropped over 27 percent. Papers such as the Rocky Mountain News were forced to close. The Christian Science Monitor and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer became online only publications.
Last year was no different for the Statesman. In 2009 its ad revenue dropped nearly 50 percent. According to April Warren, the paper shortened issues, cut back on color and reduced circulation by 1,000. But like many newspapers, the Statesman is still losing money.
“The Statesman is struggling with the same problem every former print media has-from the New York Times to the New Yorker,” said Charles Haddad, a journalism professor at Stony Brook University.
In addition to its losses in advertising revenue, the Statesman received a 91 percent cut to their proposed Undergraduate Student Government or USG, funding in the 2010-2011 budget passed by the senate, which has since been rescinded due to the Southampton campus cuts. This decrease of approximately $25,000 could lead to drastic changes for Stony Brook’s oldest newspaper.
Moiz Khan, USG treasurer, explained the reason for the cut was fiscal irresponsibility. Under USG financial bylaws, the budget committee must “review whether the organization has been fiscally responsible with its budget in the past” and the “fiscal prudence” of funding the club. After a review of the Statesman’s audit reports, the budget committee found that the Statesman ran a deficit of almost $30,000 in the past two years.
“If USG continues to fund the Statesman and the Statesman keeps losing that money, is it responsible for USG to keep funding it,” Khan said. “It’s throwing student money down the drain.”
April Warren, the editor-in-chief of the Statesman, did not deny that the Statesman has been running on a deficit. According to Warren, the deficit has been paid off using reserve funds. For example in the year 2008, the Statesman had a surplus of nearly $15,000.
Further complicating the understanding of its budget, the Statesman is a hybrid, receiving money from both USG and from outside revenue. This makes Statesman Association Inc. different from other clubs on campus. They file both state and federal taxes, and pay privately for yearly audits and business insurance. However USG funding strictly covers the cost of printing each year, News Editor, Frank Posillico said.
Because the Statesman receives USG funding, it is considered a campus club. According to Isobel Breheny-Schafer, assistant director of Student Media, the Statesman is a “necessary publication on campus and a place for future journalists to learn and perfect their craft.”
Haddad also added that the “Statesman’s number one role is not to be a business.” He said “it’s an opportunity for students to practice journalism.”
In response to their proposed budget cut, the Statesman petitioned what they said was an “unfair budget” to the USG judiciary on the basis that they were unfairly denied a budget hearing.
On April 14 during campus lifetime, a court hearing was held to determine whether the USG Constitution was followed when Khan and the budget committee allocated the Statesman’s budget.
The court ruled in favor of the Statesman, giving them a chance to discuss their funding with the budgetary committee-something they hadn’t been able to do before the proposed budget was passed by the senate.
In the hearing, Warren argued that the Statesman was never contacted to set up a budget hearing. The USG Constitution states, “the budget committee must set up budgetary hearings with the clubs and organizations before it decides on a draft budget. The Office of the Treasurer shall schedule such hearings.” Warren explained that according to this year’s USG budget workshop packet, budget hearings were not mandatory and because the treasurer did not contact them, a budgetary hearing was not scheduled.
Khan argued that yes, budgetary hearings are not mandatory, but it is not the responsibility of the treasurer to set up budgetary meetings. Rather, the burden is placed on the organizations. According to Khan, it is “meant to be a positive power to get clubs more involved in the process.”
If that Statesman’s budget stays at $2,500 dollars for next year, Warren says there will be no guarantee the organization will print twice a week as they do now.
Since the verdict, the Statesman attended a budgetary hearing on April 20 to discuss their finances for the 2010-2011 school year.