The day I arrived at UCSB to start work as publications director of the Daily Nexus, the paper’s lead story carried this headline: “Author to Delve into Motherhood for Men in Campus Lecture.”
“Modern science,” the article reported, “may soon give would-be fathers a new reproductive role: childbearing.”
The piece, based upon the work of visiting scholar Christine Kanz, raised intriguing questions about the most ancient, traditional roles in society.
For me, beginning work at a new paper, it also served as a reminder that in journalism, at least, the fundamental divisions of labor remain more… traditional.
The start of my stint at the Nexus seems a timely opportunity to explain those journalistic divisions of labor and other basic issues about the paper.
Like most newspapers, the Nexus has an ethical wall separating business operations from editorial functions of the newsroom. This is so that readers can trust what they find in the news columns is not influenced by the interests of advertisers, whose support is critical to the paper’s financial performance.
As an independent, student publication, the Nexus is governed by a structure with three branches, defined by clear distinctions in duties and a system of checks and balances.
Editorial: The Nexus is a student-run paper. All decisions about what stories to cover – and where, when and if they run – are made by student editors responsible for all non-advertising content.
The editor in chief supervises editorial operations. Kaitlin Pike, this year’s EIC, oversees a staff of about 50 journalists and editors, whose names appear in the page two masthead. These editors also work with other students, who write articles or shoot photographs on a spot basis.
Financial: As publications director, I serve as the business manager and financial officer for the Nexus and for La Cumbre yearbook.
A portion of the paper’s income – about $48,000 this academic year – comes from student fees. But like most newspapers, the Nexus largely depends on advertising sales.
Revenues fund salaries for student editors and office staff, plus commissions earned by student ad representatives. They also pay salaries of a few administration staffers, including the publications manager.
There are other major publishing costs, including newsprint and printing by Western Web Publishing, our distribution manager and vendors for sundry goods and services.
The bottom line is simple: If the paper brings in more ad revenue than it pays in salaries and other costs, its makes money. If the arithmetic works the other way, we lose money.
To its credit, the Nexus staff itself has reported that the paper faces a considerable financial challenge, because it has lost money for several years in succession. This has resulted in a debt, currently calculated at about $600,000, to the administration, which has backfilled payments for salaries during the years the paper has been in the red.
Moving forward, my primary job is financial stewardship of the paper, to help restore it to economic health, not only for the next quarter, but for the next quarter century.
To do that, we will put in place a long-term strategic plan for the Daily Nexus that builds on its existing strengths and expands its reach in a bid to move the paper to the next level, both financially and journalistically.
It is important to emphasize the division of duties for those two goals.
The publications director makes decisions about the business operations of the paper, not its content. As a veteran professional journalist, I make my experience available to the editors as a coaching resource, but all choices about content are made by them.
Oversight: The final group involved in running the Nexus is the UCSB Press Council.
Created in 1974 by then-Chancellor Vernon Cheadle, the council is the paper’s de facto publisher, representing the chancellor, who has ultimate authority over campus activities.
The council has five seats for voting members, including a faculty member, a professional journalist and three students, associated with neither the Nexus nor the student government. The chancellor appoints all five, plus a non-voting representative.
Among other duties, the council is authorized to select the editor in chief, approve budget and financial plans for the paper, and review reader complaints that cannot be resolved with the editor in chief.
The administration is now seeking new faculty and student members for Press Council, as the Nexus editorial staff prepares to review editor in chief candidates to recommend to the group. If you’re interested in serving, please email me at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.