Notes on the Pio’s budgeting process

Rachel Alexander

In response to student concerns about ASWC’s preliminary budget for the 2013-14 school year, and specifically about the amount of funding given to The Pioneer, I would like to clarify several things about the budgeting process for The Pioneer and provide the campus with more information about how we use our funds.

First, a note on the budgeting process for The PioneerEvery other club and campus media organization which receives ASWC funding is required to submit a budget request form to the Finance Committee which includes information on how they will use their money. Based on these requests, the Finance Committee makes a preliminary budget, which can be appealed before it is ultimately approved by the ASWC Senate.

The Pioneer is exempt from this process, and written into ASWC bylaws as receiving a fixed 9 percent of all student fees collected. The reason for this is simple: as an independent media organization, we are responsible for covering ASWC. We would not be able to do this job effectively if ASWC were able to cut funding for The Pioneer arbitrarily from year to year. Writing The Pioneer into ASWC bylaws ensures that we maintain editorial independence and allows us to write about student concerns or complaints about ASWC (for example) without fear that we will suffer financially as a result.

In the 2013-14 preliminary ASWC budgetThe Pioneer was granted a total of $46,147. This is an increase from our allocation for the 2012-13 school year, which was $44,755 for the simple reason that the student fee was increased slightly.

I recognize that receiving more money when several organizations or clubs had funding cut seems unfair to some students. However, there is no easy way to discretionarily cut small amounts of money from The Pioneer‘s budget without changing the fundamental fact that our budget is guaranteed in ASWC bylaws in order to allow us to maintain editorial independence.

This document contains some information for students who have raised questions about how The Pioneer spends its money on campus. It is not a complete account of all of our costs and income for the year, both because some of those numbers are still unknown, and because I have elected to protect the privacy of members of my staff by not posting their stipend amounts on an individual level. While this spreadsheet is an oversimplification of our budget, it provides an accurate picture of where most of our money is spent. The bulks of our costs are in payroll (56 percent) and printing (26 percent).

While printing represents a significant chunk of our costs, it is also a large source of revenue for us. Our printing costs for the regular weekly paper are $14,600 for this academic year. Over the course of that time, we have earned almost $9000 in print advertising revenue, and will likely earn several thousand more before the end of the year. In past years, this number has been as high as $16,000. Eliminating our print paper in favor of an online edition would simply not create large cost savings, due to the simple fact that our major source of non-ASWC revenue is print advertising. In addition, reader surveys this year have indicated that the vast majority of our campus readership is online, including about two-thirds of students who read The Pioneer, and three-quarters of faculty.

In total, The Pioneer currently has 17 individual students, not including myself, working in stipended editorial positions. Most of these students work approximately 10 hours per week for the paper, though several work upwards of 20 hours per week. Our median editorial stipend is $450 per semester. Our total paid staff is about 70 individuals.

I chose to present this information because I am proud of the work The Pioneer and its staff are doing, and I believe we work hard to earn this funding.  As a journalist, I also believe in transparency, and feel that students have a right to know how their student fees are being spent. I hope this information has aided the campus in its understanding of The Pioneer, and I welcome further discussion about how we can improve our work for the Whitman community.

Editors’ note, April 3, 2013, 8:59 p.m. This post has been updated to reflect the amount of money the Pioneer earns from print advertising.