The University of California is a university in crisis. Evidence of this crisis mounts every day; in our increasing fees, lack of classes, in the beating and pepper spraying of students, and in the privatization of this public university. Yet, the vast majority of this evidence is not visible to us individually. We depend on student journalists to find these stories, connect the dots, and keep us informed about the issues that matter to us – the students. Now more than ever, we must ensure that we have news sources on this campus that are up to this challenge.
In this spring’s campus election, we will have the chance to vote to directly fund The Bottom Line through a quarterly lock-in fee of $1.71. Currently, The Bottom Line is funded by Associated Students, but the funding that AS has been able to provide has proven inadequate. Since it’s founding just five years ago, The Bottom Line has expanded significantly, growing from a monthly publication to a weekly paper and publishing multimedia content on its website. However, while The Bottom Line served students more, the paper received significantly less funding from A.S. each year and this coming year, the paper has been slated by AS to have it’s budget cut in half. If this is allowed to continue, we risk losing this vital and progressive source of journalism on our campus.
Luckily, we students can prevent this. For less then the cost of a Subway sandwich, we can directly fund The Bottom Line for an entire academic year. Passing TBL’s lock-in fee would make the newspaper one of many user-funded media outlets in California. By collectively funding The Bottom Line, we allow the paper to better serve us, its readers. KCSB-FM, UCSB’s community radio station, exemplifies the potential of user-funded media. KCSB’s lock-in fee of $2.50, along with our annual fundraising efforts have allowed our station to grow into a bastion of free speech and alternative media for our community, and, most importantly, a valuable resource for students. On the other hand, if a small group is allowed to determine the budget of any media outlet, that media outlet will always be subject to the whims of that group. For proof of this, just turn on Fox News or most any other commercial media outlet; their content is determined not by their users, but by their advertisers and executives. The duty of media is to be critical, and criticism rarely is rarely appreciated by the powerful, whether globally, nationally or on this campus. By funding The Bottom Line directly, we ensure that it can’t be bought, or worse, be too nervous about its budget to ask the tough questions we desperately need answered.
Of course, The Bottom Line is not the only newspaper at UCSB. However, it provides the in-depth coverage and investigative reporting UCSB students need more of. There is news, and then there is journalism. Reporting the facts as they are presented may be news, but journalism means seeking out the stories that matter and doing the research required to find the tough questions and ask them. Journalists do not just question authority; they ask a follow-up question and demand a straight answer. If given the opportunity, The Bottom Line has the potential to create journalism that can provide students the information they need to produce real change on this campus and throughout the UC system.
With our university in crisis, and our student rights at stake, we must have a newspaper that will be critical, ask the right questions, and stop at nothing to keep us informed. I ask you to join me in support of The Bottom Line’s initiative for a lock in fee. Regardless of how you vote, be sure and take the time between April 23rd and 26th to log on to GOLD and do so. We can all agree that tuition increases on this campus are intolerable, but if we don’t protect journalism on this campus, we will lose a resource that we desperately need if we hope to create real change at this University.
Eric Wolff is the general manager of 91.9 KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara