Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees

Editor’s Note: The candidates for the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees were judged based on their candidate columns, which ran last week. Only those candidates who submitted columns were considered. The participation rate is noted below. Two at-large seats are available, for which three candidates are running, along with one Moody College of Communication seat, which is uncontested. We have only endorsed in the at-large race. Voting takes place Wednesday and Thursday at utexasvote.org.

At-large seats — 66 percent participated

Amil Malik is a Plan II, business honors and finance junior. She has worked at the Texan every long semester of her college career. She has worn many hats for the paper as well as Texas Student Media, having served in a number of opinion positions in addition to helping a previous editor determine alternative sources of revenue in the face of declining print advertising. Her commitment to this organization is unequaled. We strongly recommend Malik.

McKay Proctor is an English and business honors senior. While he has no prior experience with Texas Student Media, we found compelling his story of missing the now-defunct student-run radio station at Vanderbilt University in his hometown of Nashville. His appreciation of student media as part of the bedrock of UT culture will, we hope, protect TSM from any heavy-handed cost-cutting measures during his tenure. We recommend Proctor.

Roderick Hart, Dean of the Moody College of Communications, speaks at the Texas Student Media board meeting.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Last March, outgoing Communication Dean Roderick Hart came to a meeting of the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees, which oversees five student media entities, including the Texan, and relayed a message from President William Powers Jr.’s office: Don’t worry.

Worry about our finances, that is. The president’s office, Hart has told us, would give TSM $250,000 a year annually for three years to help stem the hemorrhaging of funds that TSM has experienced in recent years. 

We naturally applauded Powers’ largesse, and still do. The emergency funding, we hoped, would see us through the worst and prime us for the best.

But it’s not available in quite the way that we imagined.

The way the funding is set up, it is likely that TSM won’t see a single penny until this summer. That’s about a year and a half after we were told by Hart that we were being thrown a much-needed lifeline.

We appreciate the help and understand the challenges of securing money, especially in a bureaucracy like UT’s. But the main point here is that the administration doesn’t entirely seem to grasp the severity of our financial situation.

That’s not to say that they’re ignorant of it — far from it. They’ve seen our financials. Anyone can, they’re public record. But Hart’s comments, as well as others we’ve heard from college officials, just don’t seem to suggest any real motivating urgency on their part.

That puzzles us because there’s no real way of sugarcoating the situation: TSM has been burning through its reserves to stay afloat for the past several years, and without the money from Powers’ office, we’re just about broke. Up-to-date financial information likely won’t be available until around the time of the board’s next meeting Feb. 6, but as of the end of last semester, the situation looked very bleak.

Again, we thank the administration for its offer of help but fear that they might not have fully grasped the severity of the situation. Like most other newspapers, the Texan has recently faced some serious financial hurdles. Only serious solutions will comprehensively fix them.

In a ruling Wednesday, the Student Government Judicial Court invalidated the external and internal appointments made by the new SG administration on April 29, stating that the SG executive board violated the organization's governing rules as they apply to disclosing applicant information.

The appointments, which were confirmed by the SG general assembly last month, will need to be reconfirmed when SG meets for the first time in the fall semester. According to SG Chief Justice Philip Wiseman, the executive board may nominate the same people to the internal and external positions, or choose new candidates for the positions.

The ruling said “should members of the executive branch choose to nominate future appointments for any internal or external positions, the Chief of Staff must make all documentation publicly available…”

Despite the lack of interview notes prior to the April 29 meeting, the assembly confirmed all internal and external positions except for the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees.

The ruling was made after Andrew Wilson, outgoing Liberal Arts Council president, filed a petition for review regarding the process of nominating students to positions for Spirit and Traditions Council chair, Faculty Council Student Life Committee chair and any other position in which a nominee who was nominated to a position that was not their first choice.

The executive board addressed the concerns for the nomination of the three committees by deciding to leave the positions unfilled. However, Wilson still asked that the court consider all other positions.

According to Wilson, the process was not transparent because the executive board failed to publicly release interview questions, responses and additional notes of potential nominees.

“The only way to [be transparent] is by releasing notes from the interviews, which the chief of staff has failed to do,” Wilson said.

Despite a court ruling in early April asking the executive board to release all interview notes before the April 29 meeting, Chief of Staff Chris Jordan said the board decided not to do so in order to protect information that students disclosed in interviews.

According to the court’s opinion, these concerns “cannot overcome public interests of combating corruption and ensuring transparency…”

SG President Kori Rady said he stands by protecting the information in the interview notes, but hopes to increase communication with the assembly.

“There were some things that were pretty intimate during the interviews,” Rady said. “That was our concern and that was why the interview notes were not released prior to appointment.”

Rady said he hopes to work with the assembly to make sure privacy concerns are addressed while interviewing candidates.

The Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees acknowledged its financial hardships but declined to take specific actions at its meeting on Friday. The board also certified candidates for The Daily Texan’s upcoming editor-in-chief election. 

The Texas Student Media board oversees the operation of The Daily Texan, Cactus Yearbook, KVRX Radio, Texas Student Television and The Texas Travesty.

Jalah Goette, director of Texas Student Media, presented new financial data to the board and said the finalized board budget in March needed to include drastic changes for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

“The model we have now is not sustainable, given the financial situation we’re facing,” Goette said. “The media world is changing and we need to evolve, too.” 

Although members discussed potential solutions, the board did not settle on a specific course of action. David Verduzco, accounting lecturer and board member, said it was impractical to depend on rates of ad revenue increasing in the future. 

“We can’t just stick our heads in the sand and hope to earn more revenue,” Verduzco said. “That’s what we did this year.” 

The Daily Texan has faced a sharp decline in advertising revenue, dropping by almost 50 percent in December 2012 compared with December 2011, according to budget documents submitted to the TSM board, and one-third of the way into the fiscal year, only 27 percent of the amount of ad revenue in the 2012-2013 budget has been earned.     

Daily Texan Adviser Doug Warren said the board might consider hiring a professional staff member to look at marketing strategies and development and another to work full-time on the Daily Texan website. 

Verduzco said this wasn’t out of the question. 

“We can spend money to make money, but we don’t have much money left,” he said. 

The board also certified journalism sophomore Bobby Blanchard and Laura Wright, Plan II honors and biology junior, as candidates for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan for the 2013-2014 academic year. Originally, the board did not approve Wright’s application because she did not meet two of the requirements to run for the position. Wright appealed directly to the board, which then approved her but extended the application deadline.

Further complications arose when it was discovered that the qualifications listed on the editor-in-chief application did not match the qualifications listed in official Texas Student Media policy documents. 

The editor-in-chief position is elected by the University student body. Blanchard and Wright are Texan staff members currently on a leave of absence, as required by the Texas Student Media bylaws.

Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president for student affairs, said she also wanted the board to consider reducing the level of detail included in the minutes published online after each board meeting.

“I don’t know if you want that much detail on your website all the time,” Hammat said. “To personally identify folks is something previous boards had not expressed interest in, and for now I would advise everyone that anything you say can be personally attributed to you.”

Goette agreed to table the approved minutes pending further revision.

Published on February 4, 2013 as "TSM wants new financial strategies". 

This story was edited for accuracy after its original post.