There will be no issue of The California Aggie outside your lecture the first day of spring quarter. Or the next day. Or the next day.
Don’t freak out.
The first issue of a new California Aggie will be waiting for you that Thursday. We can’t promise four Sudoku puzzles, but we can promise an exciting version of the official UC Davis student-run newspaper we’ve all known and loved since 1915.
We’re moving to a weekly format, stressing long-form, in-depth journalism. Our issues will be fatter, not only with higher-quality writing but with more visuals and design.
We’re working on a new website that should be ready to roll before the quarter begins. It’ll be modern and sleek, with multimedia capabilities and room to grow for budding digital journalists. Blogs will be more active and our news editors — bless their hearts — will be updating around the clock, so you can always know what’s happening.
Personally, I’m excited about these changes. With no journalism major at UC Davis, The California Aggie is, and always has been, the best way for students to gain print journalism experience on campus.
But the news industry has been changing rapidly, and The Aggie has struggled to keep up. Focusing on getting a product out four days a week — when we’re all swamped with papers, midterms and attempting a social life every so often — leaves little room to try new things. It leaves little room for multimedia projects, digital skills and investigative pieces — the sorts of endeavors that employers want to see in a student-journalist’s portfolio. I’m confident that with a weekly format, we’ll finally have the time.
With the new Aggie, we’re going to try to be more transparent, too. We’re planning regular public meetings where interested parties can pitch story ideas, ask questions and critique us face-to-face. We will never improve unless we know what our readers want.
And, of course, we’re always accepting applications.
In that effort to be more transparent, I won’t lie to you. This move to weekly is largely motivated by finances.
It’s the same sad story that every print newspaper tells: Printing costs have gone up while advertising revenue has declined. On top of that, fewer and fewer people get their information from newspapers. It’s an uphill battle, and The Aggie started fighting it about eight years ago.
Editors in the past spent wonders on everything from salaries to banquets to awards. And now, the vast majority of people at The Aggie work unpaid. We can only cut so much to match our dropping income levels.
How do other student newspapers survive?
In the UC system, most newspapers receive some sort of support through student fees. We do not. The biggest newspapers have full-time, non-student business or advertising staff. We do not. We also know that other papers have experienced similar problems, have been making cuts and aren’t feeling too comfortable either.
We have hope that our new model will be better for both our staff — with training to become journalists in an industry that’s in constant redevelopment — and for our financial longevity. However, trends dictate that more will have to change.
If you are interested in learning more, come to the ASUCD Senate meeting tonight in the Mee Room. I’ll be presenting sometime after 8 p.m. and would love to hear your thoughts.
Likewise, if you believe in the importance of student press and want to donate, every little bit helps — look for a donations page on our new website come spring. And with that, I’ll stop getting all NPR on you.
JANELLE BITKER is available for questions, concerns and the occasional hug at firstname.lastname@example.org.