New business head looks to Daily’s future

Jodi Compton

The Minnesota Daily’s Board of Directors chose current marketing director Heather Burgess as 1997-98 business manager. She will take over in June as the paper’s financial chief operating officer, handling a budget of $2.6 million and a staff of 83.
Burgess, a philosophy student, said after leaving the Daily she would like to work in publishing. Children’s books are a particular interest.
“I really like kids, and I like publishing, and I thought it would be a good way to intertwine the two,” Burgess said. “I’m working on a book right now, but I don’t know if I’m going to finish it anytime soon. It’s going to be a busy year.”
One of Burgess’ goals is to build up the Daily’s cash reserves. Among future uses for the money would be a centennial celebration for the Daily, which turns 100 in the year 2000.
“We’d ideally like to fly in past Daily editors, Pulitzer Prize winners and those who have gone on to be really prominent in their fields,” she said. Better-known Daily alumni include humorist Garrison Keillor and musician Bob Dylan.
The expense of a week-long celebration, such as the First Amendment Week the Daily held in November, could be offset by money it generated through fund raising and alumni donations, Burgess said. “But to ensure the success of the event, we’d have to have the cash up front. It’d probably be a $20,000 endeavor, so you don’t want to pull that out of the budget for one year.”
Although the newspaper is financially healthy — posting a revenue excess last year and expecting to do so again this year — there are financial challenges ahead.
“The largest thing, I think, is going to be financing the pay raises for the staff to make wages more competitive with the University,” Burgess said.
The University generally starts its student employees at $6.57 an hour. The Daily offers its lowest-paid staffers a $5.37-per-hour starting wage, and managers at the paper have expressed concerns about losing staff members to other employers.
Also seeking the Daily’s top business position was Chad Miyamoto, the newspaper’s sales manager. Both Miyamoto and Burgess unsuccessfully applied for business manager last year.
“It was a very difficult decision,” said Benji Bearman, president of the board, of this year’s choice. He said the board of directors deliberated for more than 90 minutes before coming to a decision.