While The Torch’s immediate future is now clear, the campus newspaper’s long-term future is still uncertain.
Rick Kurtz, the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), announced Friday that he had secured funding to support The Torch next semester as well as the 2013-14 academic year. However, a long-term financial plan for Ferris’ student newspaper is yet to be determined.
In Friday’s meeting with Kurtz and other CAS administrators, Torch Editor-in-Chief Mary Benson and advisor Steve Fox were informed that Kurtz had been guaranteed funds for The Torch by Provost Fritz Erickson and Ferris President David Eisler.
Benson, Ferris senior in facility management, was relieved by the news.
“[Going into the meeting,] I was trying not to get my hopes up. I was ready to keep fighting and to take more drastic measures,” she said. “When the dean told us he’d found the money, I couldn’t believe it. I was excited, but you probably couldn’t tell because I was just so mentally drained.”
Moving forward, CAS is not solely responsible for Torch operating costs not covered by advertising revenue. The Torch is slated to receive funding at the university level while continuing to report to CAS.
This financial system mirrors the one in place prior to the scrutinizing of The Torch budget which began in September. It is a temporary solution as Kurtz and The Torch work toward long-term sustainability.
Next semester, Kurtz intends to hire an outside consultant to assist in identifying a long-term financial plan. The consultant is expected to provide guidance for future Torch operations.
Fox, Benson and several other current Torch staff members will be on the consultant selection committee which will hold its first meeting Dec. 15.
“The tremendous value that The Torch brings to Ferris is the reason why a short-term ‘quick-fix’ is not the answer,” Kurtz wrote in his letter to the Ferris community regarding the issue. “Rather, we need to build a long-term sustainable financial model for The Torch to ensure that the newspaper which has been informing our campus community for over 80 years enjoys 80 years and more of a healthy future.”
Fox, in his fifth year as The Torch advisor, hopes the committee decides on a consultant with not only experience in business and advertising, but also a background in student journalism.
“The Torch needs a consultant who is critical of the paper but, at the same time, offers solutions and ways to improve,” he said.
Fox believes the realistic timeline for the process shows support for The Torch.
Last week, The Torch disclosed its financial trouble on the front page of the campus newspaper while simultaneously highlighting its value to the university. In recent years, The Torch, like many newspapers across the country, has seen decreased advertising revenue.
As a result, The Torch’s budget was called into question, with Kurtz stating that The Torch has “reached a point where its current budget structure is not at a sustainable level.”
Torch staff members learned they might not have a job to return to after winter break and were forced to consider the possibility that their final issue of the semester might be their last.
Not knowing the immediate future of the campus newspaper has made Benson’s past few weeks stressful, to say the least. She elected to take a proactive approach to the situation and ran an article in last week’s issue detailing The Torch’s battle for funding.
Fox believes Benson’s decision and the ensuing story was “absolutely” a factor in securing funding.
“It would be foolish to think it [the article] didn’t spark some resolution,” Fox said. “Up to that point, a whole bunch of meetings had taken place without any resolutions. Two days after it was printed, we had a resolution.”
According to Benson, the Ferris community’s reaction to the story was overwhelmingly positive.
“After the story was printed, people were coming up to me in class and asking how they could help save The Torch,” she said. “It was no longer a matter of what the staff could do to save the newspaper, but what the Ferris community as a whole could do. It gives me goosebumps knowing that people have our back and value The Torch.”