The University’s Office of Student Publications, which oversees The Michigan Daily, The Gargoyle and The Michiganensian, held a dedication ceremony for its newly renovated building recently. The ceremony served both to honor Stanford Lipsey – the benefactor for whom the publications building is named – and as a reunion of alumni who served in one way or another at the three publications.
As a member of the business staff of The Michigan Daily, I really felt out of place. Perhaps because the overwhelming majority of alumni in attendance represented the editorial staff of the Daily, the stories the speakers regaled the crowd with all focused on praising the journalistic excellence and great experiences gained from working in this building. There was a distinct lack of interest in the improvements of the business operations of the Daily over the years.
When I first decided to join the Daily, recognizing the essential need to separate editorial and corporate interests, I had to choose between writing for the paper or learning the business aspect of the newspaper industry. My eventual decision does not reflect my lack of passion for journalism but a logical conclusion based on the skills I have.
The lack of emphasis on the business operations at the reunion was of great concern to me. While I recognize the dedication of the writers and editors who work countless hours making sure the Daily lives up to its editorial standard, the business staff members play no small role in ensuring that the paper is actually published. Such a lack of attention could be attributed to the lack of awareness of the extensive amount of work the business staff does.
The Daily relies heavily on advertising revenue to pay for its expenses. Our sales executives work diligently selling display, classified and online advertisements. Our production crew designs advertisements and non-editorial publications such as the Student Handbook. The circulation manager ensures the newspaper reaches our readers every day of the academic year, and the finance team manages client relations to gain their trust so they continue to place ads in the Daily. As business manager, I have the responsibility of balancing the budget and ensuring ample resources for the writers and editors to best accomplish their work while engaging in fiscal planning essential to the continued growth of the publication.
Does the decision to serve on the business rather than the editorial staff signal our selling out to corporate interests? Does it represent a trade between passion and greed? I don’t think so. It is unfortunate that we inculcate in our students such a disregard of the economic application of their skills.
The landscape of the printed media industry has been in flux ever since the advert of the Internet. Newspapers worldwide struggle to remain the medium of choice for information as readers shift toward non-traditional media as their source of news. To remain competitive, newspapers like the Daily require not only journalistic excellence, but also the business acumen to continually update its business practices to engage the public. As advertising budgets for printed products decline, the business staff faces a monumental task to remain competitive in the advertising industry. We must continue to attract the brightest minds available to equip ourselves well in this challenge.
While the camaraderie of the business staffers cannot be compared with the bonds forged between the writers, photographers and editors, it is strong nevertheless. Each staff is a valued contributor to the shared goal of ensuring the success of the publication. As we celebrate the grand tradition of the last 118 years of editorial freedom, let us not forget the business staff. Acknowledging their achievements is the first step toward increasing the interest and participation of former business staff members, many of whom enjoy tremendous success in their line of work and are well-positioned to give back to the Daily.
Formalizing the symbiotic relationship between the editorial and business staffs of the Daily will go a long way in ensuring another 118 successful years.
–David Goh is business manager of The Michigan Daily and an economics graduate student.