Column: Barometer facing changes
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 14:01
On a fall day in 1999, the rotary phone disappeared from our kitchen wall.
The tan AT&T model that had clicked, spun and hung on the wall since I could remember, the one responsible for my first phone call, had been replaced with a push-button phone.
By then, most families already had cordless phones, and the spinning dinosaur on the kitchen wall was an even older artifact than the 1988 Chevy station wagon still rusting in my family’s gravel driveway 2 miles east of Bend.
The Daily Barometer however is not a rotary phone. This doughty, printed institution has informed and entertained the student body since 1896, back when Grover Cleveland was president and OSU football was only having its fourth season. But like the telephone, it is undergoing iconoclastic changes.
Continuously diminishing advertising revenue and restrictive budgeting guidelines set by the Student Incidental Fee Committee, raise the possibility the Barometer may no longer be able to print five days a week. The committee requests a zero percent budget increase, while the Barometer must account for mandated increases in salary and other expenses for professional staff. The Barometer may be forced to cut print days unless we receive additional funding from student fees.
I don’t like coming around with a tin cup in hand. I don’t want to sound like a pauper or a PBS telethon volunteer begging for money for Big Bird. But unless we receive more funding from student fees in the next budget cycle, or radically change our business model, the Barometer cannot remain solvent.
Media is going through profound changes, and the Barometer needs to be a part of them. While giving up a print day or two may seem like a radical change, it would allow the staff to devote more time to innovation and produce the highest quality news. By not being tied to a daily newspaper cycle, staff members can concentrate more on learning new ways to deliver quality news to the community, in different formats.
What kind of newspaper do you want to see? Do you want us to continue to deliver news through a five-day a week printed newspaper? Or would you be willing to see the Barometer only one, two, three or four days in print, with more content delivered through the Internet? Would you be willing to lose print days if it meant better content on the web? We’re here to serve you and these changes are going to affect you.
The Barometer has not always published five days a week. It only became a five-day a week newspaper in 1971. Before that it had been only four days a week. During World War II, the Barometer was forced to cut print days because of paper and manpower shortages. But even before then during the Great Depression in 1933, the Barometer was forced to cut print days because of falling ad revenue and a shrinking student body. And of course the Barometer wasn’t always daily, having started off as a monthly literary magazine in the 19th century.
Media is changing rapidly, and the question everyone is asking is how we continue to turn a profit while serving our communities with news and information. I am passionate about the Barometer, and while it has its struggles, I’m confident this institution that has been here since 1896 will continue to be here long after I’m gone. But I want to make sure the ship is sailing in the right direction when I leave, instead of sending it irreversibly into an iceberg.
So tell us what you think. We are here to serve you and provide you with a newspaper worthy of Oregon State University. What would you like to see your paper do?
Don Iler is a senior in history and editor-in-chief of The Daily Barometer. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Iler can be reached at email@example.com.