Torch Saved…for Now

Dean secures funding for remainder of year, 2013-14

by Published: Dec 5, 2012

While The Torch’s imme­di­ate future is now clear, the cam­pus newspaper’s long-term future is still uncertain.

Rick Kurtz, the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), announced Friday that he had secured fund­ing to sup­port The Torch next semes­ter as well as the 2013–14 aca­d­e­mic year. However, a long-term finan­cial plan for Ferris’ stu­dent news­pa­per is yet to be determined.

In Friday’s meet­ing with Kurtz and other CAS admin­is­tra­tors, Torch Editor-in-Chief Mary Benson and advi­sor Steve Fox were informed that Kurtz had been guar­an­teed funds for The Torch by Provost Fritz Erickson and Ferris President David Eisler.

Benson, Ferris senior in facil­ity man­age­ment, was relieved by the news.

“[Going into the meet­ing,] I was try­ing not to get my hopes up. I was ready to keep fight­ing and to take more dras­tic mea­sures,” she said. “When the dean told us he’d found the money, I couldn’t believe it. I was excited, but you prob­a­bly couldn’t tell because I was just so men­tally drained.”

Moving for­ward, CAS is not solely respon­si­ble for Torch oper­at­ing costs not cov­ered by adver­tis­ing rev­enue. The Torch is slated to receive fund­ing at the uni­ver­sity level while con­tin­u­ing to report to CAS.

This finan­cial sys­tem mir­rors the one in place prior to the scru­ti­niz­ing of The Torch bud­get which began in September. It is a tem­po­rary solu­tion as Kurtz and The Torch work toward long-term sustainability.

Next semes­ter, Kurtz intends to hire an out­side con­sul­tant to assist in iden­ti­fy­ing a long-term finan­cial plan. The con­sul­tant is expected to pro­vide guid­ance for future Torch operations.

Fox, Benson and sev­eral other cur­rent Torch staff mem­bers will be on the con­sul­tant selec­tion com­mit­tee which will hold its first meet­ing Dec. 15.

“The tremen­dous value that The Torch brings to Ferris is the rea­son why a short-term ‘quick-fix’ is not the answer,” Kurtz wrote in his let­ter to the Ferris com­mu­nity regard­ing the issue. “Rather, we need to build a long-term sus­tain­able finan­cial model for The Torch to ensure that the news­pa­per which has been inform­ing our cam­pus com­mu­nity for over 80 years enjoys 80 years and more of a healthy future.”

Fox, in his fifth year as The Torch advi­sor, hopes the com­mit­tee decides on a con­sul­tant with not only expe­ri­ence in busi­ness and adver­tis­ing, but also a back­ground in stu­dent journalism.

“The Torch needs a con­sul­tant who is crit­i­cal of the paper but, at the same time, offers solu­tions and ways to improve,” he said.

Fox believes the real­is­tic time­line for the process shows sup­port for The Torch.

Last week, The Torch dis­closed its finan­cial trou­ble on the front page of the cam­pus news­pa­per while simul­ta­ne­ously high­light­ing its value to the uni­ver­sity. In recent years, The Torch, like many news­pa­pers across the coun­try, has seen decreased adver­tis­ing revenue.

As a result, The Torch’s bud­get was called into ques­tion, with Kurtz stat­ing that The Torch has “reached a point where its cur­rent bud­get struc­ture is not at a sus­tain­able level.”

Torch staff mem­bers learned they might not have a job to return to after win­ter break and were forced to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that their final issue of the semes­ter might be their last.

Not know­ing the imme­di­ate future of the cam­pus news­pa­per has made Benson’s past few weeks stress­ful, to say the least. She elected to take a proac­tive approach to the sit­u­a­tion and ran an arti­cle in last week’s issue detail­ing The Torch’s bat­tle for funding.

Fox believes Benson’s deci­sion and the ensu­ing story was “absolutely” a fac­tor in secur­ing funding.

“It would be fool­ish to think it [the arti­cle] didn’t spark some res­o­lu­tion,” Fox said. “Up to that point, a whole bunch of meet­ings had taken place with­out any res­o­lu­tions. Two days after it was printed, we had a resolution.”

According to Benson, the Ferris community’s reac­tion to the story was over­whelm­ingly positive.

“After the story was printed, peo­ple were com­ing up to me in class and ask­ing how they could help save The Torch,” she said. “It was no longer a mat­ter of what the staff could do to save the news­pa­per, but what the Ferris com­mu­nity as a whole could do. It gives me goose­bumps know­ing that peo­ple have our back and value The Torch.”

  • James O’Gorman

    The power of the press!