Editorial: Daily Cal Cuts Signify Turbulent Times


Over the past several years, a turbulent period in the history of journalism, papers across the country have been forced to close their doors due to financial burdens.  But the latest strike against journalism is a different breed entirely, and it is perhaps more detrimental to the future of journalism than any of the other casualties thus far.

The Daily Californian, the 141-year-old daily newspaper for UC Berkeley, is in dire straits. Like many publications, The Daily Cal has struggled to monetize its website. And after years of cutting costs and sacrificing the Wednesday print publication, The Daily Cal faces a $200,000 budget deficit and is being evicted from their current headquarters in Eshleman Hall.

The Daily Cal is now reaching out to the Berkeley student body to help shoulder the financial burden and keep the paper afloat by adding a $2.00 increase each semester to the regular tuition, which amounts to a $93,800 revenue increase. However, the VOICE Initiative, the initiative that proposes the minute tuition increase, has faced challenges from the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), which has filed executive orders to shut down VOICE.

Since The Daily Cal is independent and unaffiliated with the university, the ASUC and many other critics contend that there is no precedent for using university funding to fund a non-university program.

Thus, The Daily Cal finds itself in much the same position that professional newspapers find themselves in: caught between being a business and a public service.

Journalism is a tricky field in that it is a business that requires an enormous amount of money even though it’s not something that should be exclusive to those who can pay for it. News is a public service that should be available to everyone, much like a police force or education.  So how does one bring in revenue for something that shouldn’t require a fee, but desperately needs money to stay afloat? More troubling, is that to remain a reliable, unbiased news source, a newspaper must remain independent from outside influence even though sometimes an outside influence is in the best position to provide monetary help.

It is The Daily Cal’s independence from the UC system that makes it so special. Most school papers receive major funding from their affiliated university. It’s The Daily Cal’s independence that allows it to publish the truth, no matter how unsavory it may be, without the intrusion of the head mucky-mucks in the UC system. It’s The Daily Cal’s independence that protects good reporters from getting pushed out for publishing controversial material.

In fact, the reason that The Daily Cal separated from the university in 1971, was because the campus administration attempted to fire senior editors that wrote an editorial urging the community to take back People’ s Park.

And while The Daily Cal-supported VOICE Initiative is unorthodox, it doesn’t necessarily compromise the independence of the most famously independent student paper in the country. The money would be coming from each and every student, regardless of race, gender, or income. This means that The Daily Cal would be accountable to the entire student body, just as it already is in sentiment. There are no major donors, just small donations from anyone, which means that The Daily Cal isn’t beholden to a certain demographic or person. In all functioning definitions, The Daily Cal would still remain the independent news source that it always has been even with the implementation of the VOICE Initiative. And at this juncture in the UC system’s history, with state funding at an all-time low and ongoing questions about the future of the system still lingering, preserving an independent student voice is important.

However, the loss of an independent voice and a local news source is the least of the problems if The Daily Cal doesn’t find funding. The Daily Cal might not be The New York Times, but it is one of the most celebrated and important student newspapers in the country, and it sends the wrong message to let it fail.

With more and more undergraduate journalism schools closing each year and grad school becoming even less economically feasible, the student newspaper is among the only methods in which to train the next generation of Walter Kronkites, Mike Wallaces, or Jill Abramsons. The next generation of journalists will hopefully be the one to create more stability for the field in the future. They will be the ones to take journalism into the 21st century while still maintaining the dedication to excellence of old school journalism.

But all these aspirations are dependent on there being student papers and journalism programs that help develop the next generation’s talent.

Journalism is a field in transition. There are questions about the future of journalism that still desperately need to be answered, and there are problems that still need to be addressed. But the bottom line is that journalism needs to continue to exist, and allowing one of the crucial stepping stones into the profession to go under is a sure fire way to undermine that goal. The Daily Californian needs to be protected. The method of protecting it, the VOICE Initiative, might be unconventional, but in this case, the ends justify the means.