As advertising revenues evaporate at college newspapers across the country, newsprint seems headed toward the recycle bin of history. A group of UC Davis students is betting against the odds, however, with a new student newspaper called The Davis Beat.
The paper, produced by the newly-formed Journalism Club at UC Davis, published its first issue last Wednesday. It is a biweekly, 12-page tabloid-size paper with two pages of color.
So how are they paying for it? At 2,000 copies per issue, each print run costs $462, said Davis Beat Editor-in-Chief Adrian Glass-Moore. The Journalism Club secured a $1600 grant from the student body association’s Club Finance Council to cover printing costs. Staffers work for free. Glass-Moore said he hopes the paper can survive with paid advertising once the grant money dries up.
“I’m hoping that there is the market there for it,” Glass-Moore said. “We’re not at all expecting that the university would support us (financially).”
The Davis Beat will be competing for advertising dollars with The California Aggie, the established daily student newspaper that has been printing for nearly 100 years. The Aggie, however, has seen a significant drop in its own ad revenues over the past two years, said Editor-in-Chief Janelle Bitker.
“If they can find new sources, then more power to them,” Bitker said. “A lot of businesses just say they’re not buying print ads anymore. They’re only doing online.”
Declining print advertising revenues may force further cutbacks at The Aggie. The Davis Beat’s print product may not survive longer than a few months.
“If we had to, we’d go online, but I think there’s something that I personally find attractive about the physical paper,” Glass-Moore said.
Even with an online-only product, there’s room for more than one student news outlet at UC Davis. Glass-Moore, a junior East Asian Studies major from San Francisco, said he was inspired by the multitude of options for news in the Bay Area, from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and The Examiner.
“I think it’s really important to be able to choose where you get your news and be able to compare,” Glass-Moore said.
He wants his paper to have more of a focus on investigative journalism, especially with regard to hot-button issues such as depression treatment and prescription drug abuse on campus. The first issue featured articles on UC’s new smoking ban and new laboratory safety regulations. Glass-Moore said he hopes the biweekly format will give writers more time to work on investigations than would a daily format.
There is certainly no shortage of issues to be investigated at UC Davis and at college campuses across the country. The real challenge for student journalists at The Davis Beat, The California Aggie and other college newspapers will be how to keep their institutions alive in a rapidly changing market.