The Weekly Texan?

It’s been a daily campus fixture for more than a century—but now a proposal is on the table to turn the Daily Texan into a weekly publication.

At a tense Friday afternoon Texas Student Media board meeting, board members discussed possible changes to the Daily Texan to address growing financial concerns. Frank Serpas III, MS ’00, the board’s interim director, proposed reducing the circulation rate of the Daily Texan from five days a week to once per week, effectively maintaining the paper’s summer publication schedule year-round.

Serpas told about 25 board members, students, alumni, and reporters that shifting to weekly publication would allow TSM to continue to reach its goals of educating students and meeting the demands of audiences through means other than print, while also addressing the persisting challenge of financial stability.

Following a trend in declining advertising revenues, the board’s budget predictions show that TSM is at risk of running out of money in the near future. After recent cuts to student staff salaries as well as page number reductions for the Texan, Serpas argued that a reduced publication schedule is the next logical step to helping TSM remain solvent.

“The problem is not with supply, but demand,” Serpas said. Print journalism has been dealt a huge blow in recent years as more and more readers develop what Serpas called a “digital-first mentality.” Printing the Texan weekly, he argued, would create an opportunity to further develop the paper’s online presence.

Many alumni at the board meeting were skeptical of the proposal. Cliff Avery, BJ ’73, Life Member, president of the alumni group Friends of the Daily Texan, discussed the possibility that the organization would consider supplementing funds to pay staffers if the publication were kept daily. While Serpas was praised for his budgetary analysis and transparency at the meeting, Avery voiced concerns that the proposal to go to a weekly paper is premature.

“Our alumni are very, very concerned that there is no plan,” Avery said. “The word ‘reactive’ was used and this is just a reaction. [The Daily Texan] is the biggest target we’ve got.”

Board member and Houston Chronicle executive editor Jeff Cohen, BJ ’76, Life Member, said that he believes a switch to weekly publication without a strong enough digital component is concerning, and that it will take time to get the Daily Texan‘s online presence to where it needs to be. Cohen argued reducing the paper to weekly would be “severely damaging to its history and brand.”

Serpas acknowledged that his plan raises questions, but called the proposal his best attempt at “an educated guess.”

With a March 21 deadline to vote on the budget quickly approaching, board members agreed that they would be willing to meet again to discuss alternative proposals. A tentative date of March 7 has been set for further discussion.


Tags: ,