WICHITA, Kan. — The editor of the student newspaper at Wichita State University fears that it’s funding is at risk of being cut in half next year because of aggressive coverage.
Chance Swaim, editor-in-chief of The Sunflower, raised concerns after a student fees committee recommended slashing the student paper’s budget Friday from $105,000 to $55,000, The Wichita Eagle . He said it’s unlikely the paper would be able to make up such a large cut with advertising revenue and would have to trim positions.
“If they want a little newsletter, then that’s what it will become,” he said. “But if they want an actual student newspaper, this funding model would destroy that – which I think is intentional.”
The Student Senate will consider the committee’s proposal at a meeting Wednesday. The Student Government Association recommends student fee allocations to the university’s president, who then presents a proposed budget to the Kansas Board of Regents for approval.
Student body president Paige Hungate said the proposed cut “has nothing to do with coverage, nothing to do with content.” She said the committee looked at student-fee funding levels for newspapers at other state universities and sought to “move (The Sunflower) to a more equitable model.”
According to data presented by The Sunflower last week, the paper gets about 54 percent of its annual funding from student fees and the rest from advertising or other sources. The University of Kansas student newspaper gets about 20 percent of its funding from fees; Kansas State, about 55 percent; Pittsburg State, 51 percent; and Emporia State, 81 percent, according to the data.
Swaim, the Sunflower editor, said he thinks the proposed cut to student newspaper funding is retaliation for critical news stories and editorials over the past few years. The Sunflower is funded by student fees and advertising revenue, but it operates independent of the university, and students make all editorial decisions.
In a column published Monday, Swaim and columnist Ray Strunk chronicled months of conversations with university officials, during which several expressed dismay over the paper’s coverage of enrollment numbers, student housing, the development of the Innovation Campus and other issues.
“By covering these stories for our readers, our funding has been threatened, our independence has been threatened, and our very existence as the student newspaper at WSU has been threatened,” Swaim wrote.
Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, said the committee’s proposal to cut funding is “nothing short of censorship.”
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com