UC Newspapers Struggle to Stay Afloat
by Dawn Marie Howell


Last week, UC Berkeley’s prized student newspaper, The Daily Californian, announced it will discontinue printing its Wednesday edition because of financial troubles. The Daily Cal, much like UCSB’s analog The Daily Nexus, has normally printed editions every day of the working week. But with the recent economic crisis, advertising revenues have gone into a slump and the oldest newspaper in the UC system has had to take drastic actions to cut costs. 

Bryan Thomas, editor-in-chief of The Daily Cal, attributes the paper’s financial woes to similar ones happening throughout the Berkeley area. In March of this year, the East Bay Chronicle shut its doors for good. With local businesses suffering, ad revenue for papers such as the Daily Cal have likewise taken a downturn. “We are searching for a year fix to the situation,” said Thomas in a phone interview. “But we don’t really have a buffer zone or a cash reserve to fall back on. It is a scary situation.” 

In addition to scaling back publication, The Daily Cal also cut 15 percent of production costs and staff salaries across the board. Thomas said no one has been directly laid off, but some departments have gone dark or have begun to function with a much smaller staff. Also, the paper has not taken on many new employees because of their current situation. 

Though the climate of print journalism looks bleak, Thomas expressed his confidence that there will always be a niche for a paper like The Daily Cal. The current contingency plan for bringing the paper back to full production involves an endowment fund which the paper hopes to make public this coming January. Thomas does not plan to have the paper run entirely off of the endowment but will also make vigorous and necessary changes to the way the paper currently operates.

However drastic the changes may be, Thomas does not believe The Daily Cal would ever return to the UC. The Daily Californian has been an independent body since it left the University in 1971. “Right now, the University cannot afford to take us on,” said Thomas. “This is good because we don’t want to have to sacrifice our editorial integrity, but if it were a decision between closing the paper and returning to the UC, we’d have to seriously consider it.” 

The Daily Cal is not the only paper taking financial blows. UCLA’s Daily Bruin experienced similar turmoil in 2005, but is still seeking out ways to keep itself afloat. Anthony Pesce, editor-in-chief of The Daily Bruin, commented that the Daily Cal’s strategy frightens him. “If you cut back publication, you save on printing but utilities, rent, overhead and staff costs remain fixed,” Pesce explained in a phone interview. “You are more likely to lose ad sales and students pick up your paper less, so it’s a lose-lose situation.” 

In the past three years, The Daily Bruin has made cuts across all departments and reduced the circulation of the paper in order to maintain its daily publication. Still, Pesce and the other editors are taking aggressive measures to find more ad revenue in the Los Angeles area with an entire marketing department dedicated to the task. Pesce insisted that the Daily Bruin will also work on innovating the paper so that it will survive into the next decade and beyond. “Even major metropolitan papers like the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle are asking themselves if their paper will exist in ten years,” he said. “All I can say to papers out there is that you have to innovate now. Look for new ad revenue now. Get out of your student organizations and get independent. It’s a terrifying time right now.”