Commentary | Vote yes for the DPS

Correction appended
A newspaper’s source of funding affects its content. As the Guardian wrote in an advertising campaign last year, “When you’re owned by no one, no one controls what you say.” In our case, students own The Daily – we depend in part on your student fees in order to operate – and that’s why it might be the most democratically-run student paper in the country. Any student can become a contributor, any contributor can become staff, and any staff member can become an editor. We value consensus above all else. We don’t hire or fire writers. We have no editor-in-chief and no faculty advisor. This may sound chaotic, but it’s not – it’s a way of creating an environment that’s welcoming to every student, because that’s what you deserve in exchange for the fees you pay.

In the spirit of democracy, we want to level with you about the state of the newspaper market, exactly why we need this fee, and what it will get you.

Why we need your help
For decades, The Daily’s been supporting itself through a combination of student fees and advertising revenue.

Our alternative-weekly counterparts like Voir, the Hour, and the Mirror have an advantage we don’t: because they’re owned by printing companies, they get discounts on printing. Their costs are negligible; ours are massive. We don’t reduce our costs by printing fewer copies of one edition of the paper. The most expensive part is starting up the presses – once they’re going, the amount of papers we print has little effect on total costs. And unlike student newspapers with closer institutional ties to their student societies, we don’t receive discounts on rent, phone services, IT support, et cetera.

Advertisers know we don’t have 100 per cent pick-up, but the higher our circulation, the greater the probability that their messages get out there. This involves waste, and we want to move away from that by increasing our presence online. But when circulation goes down, so does ad revenue, and we need to be prepared for that.

On top of this, there’s been a dramatic shift in the market over the past year. Advertisers are reaching their target audiences in more direct ways and investing less in news media, from television, to radio, to print. This isn’t a temporary trend due to the recession; it has to do with a permanent shift in the journalism industry. This year, while our ad staff has been pulling out all the stops to bring in revenue in a shrinking market, we’ve been cutting issues and decreasing page counts to make ends meet. If things go on like this, it’s not looking good.

Why The Daily matters
Above all, The Daily is a student paper. Before the No Committee writes any more Facebook posts claiming that our stories are irrelevant to students, they should speak to the students who pitched the stories, the students who edited them, and the students who laid them out for print. McGill students do spend a lot of time studying, but we’re also citizens and voters and workers – when we cover issues outside of campus, it’s because we refuse to accept that our engagement with the world beyond the Roddick Gates is on hold until we graduate.

Student newspapers across the country routinely turn away writers and reject content that’s pitched to them by fellow students. There are few barriers to getting your words printed in The Daily – any DPS member can make the jump from curious student to published writer in a matter of days. You can write whatever you want. You can see your words in print. You’ll have clippings to show future potential employers – even if you’re not going to be applying for journalism jobs.

The Daily is a student service because we teach skills. Daily writers learn that they have to get their facts straight, photographers learn that pictures should be as honest and clear as a strong piece of writing, and designers learn the makings of an attractive paper. And despite what those chalk messages on campus might say, we all receive training in ethics. We believe that when you want to speak your mind in print, it’s usually good to include your name, rather than scrawling an anonymous note and running.

We make mistakes; we screw up. We’re students. And having to deal with the consequences of those mistakes – having to look fellow students in the eye after getting a number wrong, or fielding angry phone calls when we misquote a source – can be more educational than anything else.

What’s in it for you
With your support, The Daily and Le Délit will be able to keep offering the services they do without the danger of an inevitable slow descent due to lack of ad revenue.

It will help us shift to producing content online seven days a week. Increased financial support will allow us to redevelop our web site, buy audio-visual equipment and more bandwidth. That means more special online projects, more multimedia content, more opportunities for equipping any interested McGill students with skills that match the realities of journalism today.

Moving away from long production shifts will allow us to spend more time meeting with contributors, seeking out new ones, and outreaching to faculties we don’t cover enough. When students from certain faculties aren’t picking up the paper, we want to know why and we want to know what we can do about it.

And we’ll become more accessible. Students can read and engage with The Daily whether they’re on campus or off campus, whether they’re in Montreal or on exchange, allowing us to finally sidestep the administration’s stringent rules on where we can put our stands.

We haven’t increased our fee since 2002. Five bucks then is worth $5.90 now. So inflation wants you to vote Yes, too.

And don’t be fooled
The people driving the No Committee said during the referendum debates Thursday night that they don’t want a paper that covers “obscure human rights issues,” and questioned why the DPS puts out a French paper at all. Check out the debate online here [link coming soon] and decide for yourself what to make of it.

Braden Goyette and Stephen Davis are, respectively, The Daily’s Health and Education editor and Coordinating editor. Write them at letters@mcgilldaily.com.

In the article Vote Yes for the DPS, it was stated that the DPS’ fee had not increased since 2003. In fact, the fee has not increased since spring of the 2001-2002 academic year. The inflation rate referred to at the end of the article refers to the inflation from spring 2002 to the present. The Daily regrets the error.


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