The University of Windsor Student Alliance has pulled the plug on the print publication of the campus paper The Lance. But following student outcry and a Facebook compaign to save the newspaper, the board of directors called an emergency open meeting Monday at 4:30 p.m.

By Tamara Baluja

The University of Windsor Student Alliance has pulled the plug on the print publication of the campus paper The Lance.

The 85-year-old newspaper was ordered to end all its print productions immediately, following a decision made last Wednesday. But following student outcry and a Facebook compaign to save the newspaper, the board of directors called an emergency open meeting Monday at 4:30 p.m.

Kim Orr, the outgoing president of the UWSA, said the decision was purely financial. Based on The Lance’s February statement of earnings, the publication was $24,000 in red. But editor-in-chief Natasha Marar said the figure was misleading, since The Lance’s projected end-of-year earnings show it would have been $7,000 in debt.

“There was no signs whatsoever that this was something being talked about before the decision came down last week,” Marar said. “It was hasty, uncalled for, and frankly embarrassing for my staff and the university.”

The Lance is Windsor’s only free weekly, second-largest publication and serves the local community as well as the campus. The paper employs 14 paid contract staff as well as numerous other volunteer and co-op students. If last week’s decision holds, The Lance’s final printed issue will be a scathing look into the student government election with a front-page headline of “Electile dysfunction: Multiple allegations of corruption plague UWSA election.”

 

Several readers took to Twitter to complain that freedom of press was being compromised here. As a student newspaper, The Lance reports on the UWSA and holds it accountable to the student body, but it is technically a part of the student government in that its bills get paid by the student subsidies managed by the UWSA. Earlier this year, WesternU's campus paper The Gazette claimed it was being muzzled by the student government.


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Orr, who does not have a vote at the UWSA board of directors meetings, denies the negative press of the UWSA had any bearing on the decision to cancel The Lance’s print publication. She says the paper will continue to receive $60,000 annually subsidized by student fees, allowing it to hire staff for online production.

“I think it was the prudent decision in this case,” Orr said, adding the student alliance will cover the projected deficit this year.  

Marar said the timing seemed odd, but declined to specuate on the reasoning behind the UWSA's "rash and premature decision." She said the newspaper won’t be able to maintain its production standards. Since most of its advertisers prefer print over online, she said cutting the print edition and going web-only effectively cuts the paper’s current budget of about $180,000 per year down to a third of that.

Marar said she plans to make a case before the board of directors later today explaining its business model, as well as, suggesting alternatives to cover the $7,000 deficit. The newspaper doesn’t run a deficit every year and she says the “minor” amount incurred this year can be absorbed into next year’s budget.

Here is some of the online reaction to last week's decision:

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.