UDK Blues

I spent all four years of my undergraduate career working for The University Daily Kansan in some capacity. One year, I was more than 4,000 miles away from the newsroom, but never missed a column-submission deadline. I spent a year and a half on the editorial board and participated in the endorsements of two Student Senate coalitions. I’ve placed headlines, written headlines and posted headlines to the Web.

My most memorable experiences involved my friends. Press Club, Barn Party, LNOP, potluck night, trips to Power & Light, random meet-ups in coffee shops and crowding together in the editors’ office to eat a quick dinner before budget meetings are all memories that make me smile. Friends, more than anything, made the Kansan what it was.

Part of the reason I was able to devote so much time to the Kansan was because I was paid. I would’ve worked at the Kansan for nothing, but my $7.50 hourly wage helped me pay the bills without having to take on a second job. I’m honestly not sure I would’ve had time to take a second job. My senior year, as a managing editor, I was comped 26.5 hours per week. All told, my “real” hours were easily 35-40 hours. Combine that with 18 credit hours (I was a triple major) and non-paying newsroom shifts for my classes, and  I would not have been able to give the Kansan the attention it deserved without some compensation.

I’ve used my Kansan experience and clips to land three internships at large U.S. papers, and it was also beneficial in applying to graduate school. Beyond being fun, it was hands-on newsroom experience and a way to actually become a working journalist before I graduated. Limiting Kansan leadership to the sleep-deprived, the credit-hour-deprived or the independently wealthy would potentially rob School of Journalism students not only of their campus jobs, but also of future jobs.

So I admit to feeling incredibly angry and disappointed to learn that the Student Senate finance committee has voted to cut the Kansan’s money from student fees. Senate is under some delusion that “they” pay for the Kansan’s media fee, when actually it’s paid for by students and only funneled through Senate. Whatever bizarre reasoning has been posed, it all seems to boil down to Senate brass not liking the Kansan’s coverage.

The Kansan is not the New York Times. It’s a learning tool and a place to get our feet wet. The (incorrect) comparison was that it’d be akin to Congress funding the Times. I assume from that  rationale that Congress would also be OK with not receiving taxes from the Times. Right.

According to a Student Press Law Center official, what the Student Senate is doing is not only stupid but illegal. Tonight’s vote means that the proposal goes to full Senate later this month, despite the fact that the student body (which Student Senate purports to represent) has already voted by referendum to keep this exact fee. The money itself, when divided up among every student, is a pittance, roughly $.02 a day, which makes this exercise all the more ridiculous. It’s more about principle than money in the end: Student Senate is threatening to cut off a student newspaper because of dissatisfaction with its coverage.Anyone who values a free press should squirm at the thought.

However, it’s sad that so many of us who devote so much time and effort to the paper are going to have to suffer through salary, staff and content cuts just to feed someone else’ ego. I’m confident, though, that we’ll prevail in the end. The Kansan’s been around since 1904. What’s so special about these people?

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