Roger Ebert pleads with alumni to help keep cash-strapped Daily Illini afloat

#1
Ebert pleads with alumni to help keep cash-strapped Daily Illini afloat

The Daily Illini, the 141-year-old student newspaper of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has enlisted former Editor-in-Chief and award-winning Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert to help raise funds in a fight for the paper's survival.

The newspaper's nonprofit umbrella organization, Illini Media Co., is delinquent on its mortgage payments and owes $250,000 in back payments to its printer. Given its financial independence from the university and its inability to get a loan, the paper — a daily broadsheet with 12 pages — is facing a cash crunch.

“It is possible the Daily Illini could cease publication,” Mr. Ebert said in a letter circulated on Facebook to alumni of the paper.

chicagobusiness.com
 
#2
As a former Illini Media Co. employee (WPGU, not daily illini) I have mixed feelings about this. Of course I want the best for future journalism students, and for them to get the real world "commercial" experience of being in media without University funding... which sets apart the Daily Illini, and WPGU from other college media outlets across the country. That being said, I have zero faith in the current publisher/general manager of Illini Media, and I do not think any financial or professional help given to them will be successful until there is a change.

:chief:
 
#3
As a very old alum who had many friends working at both 'PGU and the DI and who enjoyed both media outlets, I would hate to see either fold.
 
#4
I'd hate to see it go, but given it's steady decline in quality over the years I am not the least bit surprised. Maybe new leadership could make it profitable again.
 
#5
We need your help

The Daily Illini is in trouble. News broke yesterday about the Illini Media Company, the umbrella organization that owns our publication, and its financial problems and attempts to pay off its debts.

Here are the facts: Right now, we owe $250,000 in printing costs to the Champaign News-Gazette and to other vendors. We’re also behind on our mortgage payments. It’s not a surprise; other campus publications and even professional media outlets have been suffering cutbacks and running deficits for years. The landscape of news media is changing, and we, like so many others, are falling victim to the challenges of a changing news market.

We regret not being the first to bring this to your attention. But that’s why we believe how important it is today to tell you — from one group of students to another — what this situation means for all of us.

http://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2012/02/we_need_your_help
 
#6
We broke it, you fix it

It’s sad enough to see Ebert reduced to charitable pitchman for the IMC, having to rescue an already-sunken ship, while the captain who hit the iceberg — longtime Publisher and general manager, Mary Cory — is long gone to California. But where this plan goes completely off the rails is their petition asking for a nonrefundable $3 fee from every student, per semester, at the University. As a media enterprise, we are not unopposed in principle, but it does seem a little astounding that The Daily Illini would spend so much time priding itself in its independence from the University and then require every U of I student to fund its operations. Contrast this to the fee students pay to help fund Krannert, the University-owned, internationally recognized arts center that seems stronger than ever. Their fee is refundable.

http://www.smilepolitely.com/opinion/for_rent/
 
#7
But where this plan goes completely off the rails is their petition asking for a nonrefundable $3 fee from every student, per semester, at the University.
Think of this $3/semester fee as paying for your entertainment during lectures. I know I was not alone in doing the crossword puzzle / Sudoku every day in class. Get off your high horse.
 
#8
Woodridge, IL
I certainly would have gotten my money's worth for that $3 fee. I mean I got a copy at least once a week, so it would not be a fee I would complain about.
 
#9
Think of this $3/semester fee as paying for your entertainment during lectures. I know I was not alone in doing the crossword puzzle / Sudoku every day in class. Get off your high horse.
I don't particularly have a problem with the $3 fee, but I agree with the article when it touches on the publication priding itself on being completely independently run. Granted, they could just stop calling themselves independently run (and really... no one would actually notice I'm sure).

I have no print background, just broadcast, and what I will say about WPGU is that it was my experience working for a "Commercial" station that stood out to my future employers, and not working for a "College" station. They knew I "got it" and understood the MAJOR differences in doing college radio, and commercial radio. I fought to keep WPGU as commercially successful as I could while I was there, and we did get ratings, which led to revenue.

Their problem now is that they have gravitated towards being a "college" station, and not a commercial one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a college station. There IS, however, a problem of being a "college" station, when you are not getting money from the university, and having to sell advertisements based on your ratings. Guess what? You play stuff that no one has heard of... you don't get ratings... and therefore the advertising revenue stops coming in.

When I started there, the general manager of WPGU had a radio background. Understood what it took to succeed in radio, and was able to pass along that "real world" "commercial" radio experience on to us, and that is ultimately what led me to a professional radio career. Shortly before I graduated, that GM took another job in another city, and instead of hiring someone with radio experience to steer the ship, the GM of the Daily Illini decided that despite knowing ZERO about radio, and having NO broadcasting knowledge, that she would take over as the GM.

After reading the article, I am glad to see that she is no longer there, so I am hoping that the ship can be righted, changes can be made, and that future students who wish to pursue a career in radio (god only knows what they are thinking... haha) can have that commercial experience that I had, which will better enable them to land a professional radio gig.

:chief:
 
#10
Their problem now is that they have gravitated towards being a "college" station, and not a commercial one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a college station. There IS, however, a problem of being a "college" station, when you are not getting money from the university, and having to sell advertisements based on your ratings. Guess what? You play stuff that no one has heard of... you don't get ratings... and therefore the advertising revenue stops coming in.

When I started there, the general manager of WPGU had a radio background. Understood what it took to succeed in radio, and was able to pass along that "real world" "commercial" radio experience on to us, and that is ultimately what led me to a professional radio career. Shortly before I graduated, that GM took another job in another city, and instead of hiring someone with radio experience to steer the ship, the GM of the Daily Illini decided that despite knowing ZERO about radio, and having NO broadcasting knowledge, that she would take over as the GM.

After reading the article, I am glad to see that she is no longer there, so I am hoping that the ship can be righted, changes can be made, and that future students who wish to pursue a career in radio (god only knows what they are thinking... haha) can have that commercial experience that I had, which will better enable them to land a professional radio gig.
I grew up in Urbana and went to the U of I for college and graduated in 2008. I remember growing up listening to 107.1 THE PLANET and really liking the station. This was in the late 90s. I think the highlight of my listening pleasure was when you had the live coverage of WOODSTOCK. I would stay awake at night listening to the broadcasts and giggling at the horrible attempts to bleep out the cuss words. They also had a great morning show in the late 90s which i forget the name of. But i digress...

Then sometime in the early 2000s the station completely changed its music and format and it was not for the better. (im guessing this is when the new manager came i) I now listen to the parkland college radio station for music (FM 88.7), the DJs aren't the best (they are students so its fine) but the music selection they play is far more relevant than that of WPGU . Anyway its sad that WPGU fell off so much and interesting to hear an insider perspective.

rant off.
 
#11
Northwoods of Wisconsin
The potential failure of the DI was worthy of a few minutes on NPR's All Things Considered on Tuesday afternoon. Nothing new was in the radio story.
 
#12
Bailout culture.

If some crappy restaurant is going out of business because their is general apathy for their food, should everyone that hates the place have to pay a tax to support it just so a minority that love the food can keep enjoying it?

If the paper doesn't have enough money, raise your prices or try some other business model. If you cannot survive on your own merits, you should go out of business.
 
#13
Orange Krush Class of 2013
Stanford, CA
Bailout culture.

If some crappy restaurant is going out of business because their is general apathy for their food, should everyone that hates the place have to pay a tax to support it just so a minority that love the food can keep enjoying it?

If the paper doesn't have enough money, raise your prices or try some other business model. If you cannot survive on your own merits, you should go out of business.
I think the $3 dollar fee will be open for voting by all students, so hopefully that won't be an issue. We've had referendums on extra student fees that everyone could vote on in the past. It would make sense to me to make it refundable like most of the other ones, though.
 
#14
I think the $3 dollar fee will be open for voting by all students, so hopefully that won't be an issue. We've had referendums on extra student fees that everyone could vote on in the past. It would make sense to me to make it refundable like most of the other ones, though.
Refundable would be fine. But if non-refundable, to have 50% + 1 vote to steal the property of others to support a private venture is an ugly thing to do. Regardless of how good of a cause someone thinks it is. Just my opinion.

If people want the Daily Illini to survive, take out an advertisement in the paper, donate some money, or buy some papers. Don't try to get a simple majority to agree that taking money from students that don't like the paper or don't want to support it is reasonable.

Personally I would like to see it survive. I'd donate MY money to keep it afloat were I a student or someone living in the area. I wouldn't try to force you to donate your money though. That is all I was saying.
 
#15
Orange Krush Class of 2013
Stanford, CA
Refundable would be fine. But if non-refundable, to have 50% + 1 vote to steal the property of others to support a private venture is an ugly thing to do. Regardless of how good of a cause someone thinks it is. Just my opinion.

If people want the Daily Illini to survive, take out an advertisement in the paper, donate some money, or buy some papers. Don't try to get a simple majority to agree that taking money from students that don't like the paper or don't want to support it is reasonable.

Personally I would like to see it survive. I'd donate MY money to keep it afloat were I a student or someone living in the area. I wouldn't try to force you to donate your money though. That is all I was saying.
That's what I thought you were going for and I agree refundable would be better. I hope it stays although I've had to cut my reading down to make myself pay attention in class!
 
#16
Woodridge, IL
How would they enforce it so people that get a refund on their fee don't take copies of the DI then? Getting those electronic bins would end up costing more.
 
#17
Orange Krush Class of 2013
Stanford, CA
How would they enforce it so people that get a refund on their fee don't take copies of the DI then? Getting those electronic bins would end up costing more.
I wasn't thinking about restricting who could take the paper. Maybe I'm being over-optimistic about people not taking a refund when they could read the DI either way.