Student papers stay nonprofit

Recent discussion of the possible takeover of the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the newspaper of Colorado State University, by media giant Gannett Company is alarming and would not be in the best interest of the paper or community.

The President of CSU introduced the idea just months after the Collegian gained worldwide attention after they published an editorial that read “F – – – Bush.” It seems like CSU, which partially supports the Collegian financially, doesn’t want to be liable for student journalists who exercise free speech. But giving up the liability would lay the student paper on the chopping block and hinder the goals of any student paper: to inform and to train students.

The sale would disrupt the business model that has made student newspapers thrive. U.S. city papers have lost 42 percent of their market value the last three years. Stockholders don’t like downward trends and public corporations can’t survive with unhappy stockholders. So editors and managers are forced to cut staff and reduce content.

Student newspapers on the other hand, haven’t had these problems. Niche advertising markets of student consumers still attract ad money, and recent studies show more than 70 percent of students read their student paper at least once a week. These stable trends appeal to media giants like Gannett, who wouldn’t mind picking up another profitable paper. But making student publications responsible to business analysts in far-away cities would only throw the publications in the same boat as corporately owned newspapers.

Most college papers, the Daily included, are nonprofits that receive partial funding from student service fees. Revenue above the cost of publishing is funneled back into staff training and special operations. In this model, decline in profit doesn’t mean fuming stock brokers and staff cuts.

Student newspapers have been deemed by experts as the perfect news model, a last resort of pure journalism unfettered by stock pricing. We certainly hope the Collegian isn’t passed off to Gannett, and that corporate acquisition of student publications doesn’t become a trend.