if students could opt-out of Daily fees, editing choices would become more difficult, says Board member

Here is the audio link to CKUT’s interview with Max Reed, as part of the publicity for the referendum vote.

I respect the work Max Reed did in student government. I’d trust him and Daniel Langer more the others on the DPS Board to see the need for reforms of editorial policies. Reed makes a fair point about what might happen if The Daily could only rely on advertising revenues. The Daily has to project its budget for the year and keep paying its fulltime staff. (Yes, but let’s be honest, they don’t necessarily have to give the editors stipends [$2,300 each], when the editors weren’t paid even when The Daily actually came out daily. It’s still a resume-builder.)

But then Reed really falters, with all sorts of pauses, when he talks about how The Daily’s autonomy would be threatened if there were opt-outs. Check out the interview around 8 min, 20 sec in. He eventually sputters out that if a group didn’t like their coverage of an issue they could organize for more opt-outs.

I agree, if we must set aside the question of the willpower of the editorial staff in a given year, we could say the unpredictability of available funding might impinge on the newspaper’s autonomy. However, the opposite situation, where the students have no voice in how much they give a newspaper that might take them for granted, is not more desirable, more democratic, or more free.

The “non-hierarchal” ideal of The Daily inherently contradicts complete autonomy from the student body. It’s understandable why Max Reed was having difficulty balancing those principles when he discussed a potential effect of opt-outs. I’m not saying his interview was obscurantist at all; it was fine. But there are plenty of potential compromises that Max Reed might be able to recognize after the referendum. For example …

What about giving the students the right to hold a referendum on temporarily docking the obligatory fees for The Daily by $1 or the right to hold a referendum on making only $1 (of the $5 semester fee) opt-outable for the individual student? The Daily used to be an independent newspaper with accountability to the students written into the Constitution, but since the 1986 referendum, the Constitution doesn’t let students bring anything to a referendum. That’s contrary to the “non-hierarchal,” egalitarian structure The Daily says it should have.

There are ways to make the Daily more accountable to the students, to give students more rights over their fees, and keep the amount of revenue predictable enough for the editors to be free to exercise their consciences when editing.

[NOTE: This webpage has been slightly adapted from this post.]