A committed change

The Spectator will boost coverage this school year in order to stay afloat

Whenever a challenge presents itself to a group of people, that group can decide to do one of two things: lie down or embrace it.

Here at The Spectator, our collective staff of 29 student journalists, advertisers and business people is staring at perhaps the biggest challenge our 91-year-old publication has ever faced.

But I can assure each and every one of you we are choosing the latter.

Let me draw out for you the difficulties this particular group faces and how we plan to conquer it.

The first challenge we face is one almost every major print publication faces, and that’s readership. In 2002, 2006 and 2013, Michael Dorsher, the faculty advisor for The Spectator, facilitated readership surveys with one of his classes.

The number of people who said they read The Spectator has decreased dramatically in this 11-year time frame.

According to these surveys, given to the student body with anywhere from about a 3 percent to 6 percent margin of error, almost 60 percent of students in 2002 read the paper more than once a week. In 2013, that number was under 10 percent, while less than 20 percent read it once a week.

However, more than 50 percent of people in the 2013 poll wanted to see updated content in either the print edition or the website. So clearly, interest is there, it’s just a matter of us as a staff figuring out how to convey that message.

That’s a segway into our second challenge: our budget. This school year, we are getting $18,000 in allocated funds from Student Senate, which helps us with the daily expenses we have such as salaries, maintenance, supplies and website hosting.

As I’ve quickly discovered moving up the ranks from staff writer three semesters ago to editor in chief currently, there’s a lot more than just writing that goes into making a successful publication.

There’s all of these expenses you wouldn’t necessarily think of, and it is hard to appeal to advertisers when readership numbers have declined. For those who don’t know, our non-allocated money comes from advertising.

To no individual’s particular fault, The Spectator has been in the red financially for a few years now, including last school year. Needless to say, this doesn’t exactly scream “keep funding us” when we put up a bid to Student Senate, and the future of a publication that’s been a proud tradition of our university since 1923 can’t survive by not changing some things up.

So here’s what this hungry, loyal and hard working batch of The Spectator staffers are all set to do.

We are dedicated to putting new content online at least five days a week instead of pouring whatever is on the printed pages online Thursday mornings when the paper comes out to stands.

That means that every event we report on, whether it would be a home football game, Forum speech or a rocking show at The Cabin, we’ll have full coverage of it up on spectatornews.com within 24 hours of the event.

We’ll also have a much larger social media presence as we live Tweet at such events, so even if you can’t be there, we’ll be your source to follow along.

We’ll have more mutlimedia stories than you’ve ever seen The Spectator produce, and of course, the only place to find that is, you guessed it, at spectatornews.com.

But here’s the biggest thing you need to know about this school year. Starting next week, we will only be printing every other week. That’s a huge sacrifice we’re making in an attempt to balance our budget. Printing costs are our second highest sum of money behind salaries, so cutting that in half will only help us get back on our feet.

But as I just explained, we’ll still keep you up-to-date on everything, and it is not only our goal but our expectation to be your number one source for campus news.

This staff is committed to being just that for you, and we will do everything in our power to make sure you are entertained and informed on what’s happening here on Wisconsin’s most beautiful campus. That is an absolute promise from me.

As the fictional coach Eric Taylor from NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” would tell us: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”