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Challenges ahead for student newspaper

8/12/2012

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

For Fort Hays State University's student newspaper, the 2012-13 school year might prove one of the most challenging in its 104-year history.

Student Government Association funding for the University Leader was cut from $32,250 to $19,750 last spring. This semester, new strategies for survival of the publication are in the works.

Shana Meyer, assistant vice president for student affairs, said her projection for fiscal year 2013 is the Leader will be operating at a loss of approximately $38,000.

"We are not looking at good times," she said.

That loss assumes advertising revenues will remain flat, a level that has declined during the past few years. However, Meyer said Leader staff members will be working to increase that revenue.

One strategy includes use of Educational Opportunity Funds in creating a marketing and advertising position. University Leader adviser Gretchen Fields wrote a proposal for the EOF, receiving $4,600 to create the new position.

"Hopefully we'll have luck getting our ad revenue increased this year because that was one of our problems last year," Fields said. "We just weren't seeing the numbers we were used to."

Hiring for the new marketing position, which is being advertised through FHSU's student employment site, JobX, is one of the biggest changes Meyer envisions for the upcoming year. Expectations for the position are for the new employee to help with the management and business side of the publication.

"I think sometimes people look at the Leader as a writing opportunity, but there's a great business opportunity as well," Meyer said. "We're hoping we get somebody who has an interest in advertising, marketing and business that can really lend some focus in that area."

The successful applicant will be selected by the student publications board early in the upcoming semester.

Although she said she is confident efforts to fund the paper will be successful, Fields is not sure how the pieces will come together to make that happen.

One student staff position has been eliminated through consolidation of job duties, saving a few thousand dollars, Fields said. However, further staff cuts are not anticipated, as the remaining positions are critical to ensuring production goes on.

"We feel like we've exhausted all the things we can do internally," Fields said.

A meeting of key stakeholders, including Meyer, FHSU President Edward H. Hammond and University Leader Editor-in-Chief Molly Walter, is planned to occur prior to the beginning of the school year, with the hope of bringing a few new ideas to the table.

One idea is to sell subscriptions to students' parents and FHSU alumni.

"We've been talking about circulation and subscriptions for years, and nobody's been able to pinpoint how to do it," Fields said. "Hopefully we can work that out and it will be a new source of revenue for us."

Walter's "out-of-the-box" thinking is likely to be a benefit to ensuring the University Leader's success in the upcoming year, Fields said.

Walter has been on staff with the Leader since her freshman year in 2010, first as staff writer then copy editor. In the fall 2011, she became the managing editor, and in spring 2012, she served as managing editor, and opinion and leisure editor.

One goal Walter hopes to accomplish this year is to bring back funding from SGA and increase advertising revenue.

"I know it's going to be really hard to be able to print the paper on the small amount of funding that we do have," she said.

The loss of SGA funding, although an obstacle for the Leader staff, has resulted in a show of support from people in the Hays community, FHSU alumni and current students, Meyer said.

"It's something that we don't want to lose," she said. "So we're looking at all kinds of alternatives.

"Certainly, the Leader is something of value here on campus and something that we want to keep."