We’re asking alumni and friends of the College Heights Herald, the Talisman, Student Publications Advertising and Cherry Creative to help us get through some unprecedented times and challenges.
We have set up a new membership program with six giving levels, which we announced at our Happy Hour @Homecoming event last Friday night. We designed it so anyone – from a current student to a seasoned veteran to a retiree – can afford to join:
- Ally – starts at $5 a month.
- Advocate – starts at $10 a month.
- Journalist – starts at $20 a month.
- Masthead – starts at $35 a month.
- First Amendment Champion – starts at $50 a month.
- 1924/1925 Club – for those who donate an amount over a year’s time equal to (or exceeding) the founding years of the Talisman and the Herald.
Each membership level carries incentives. You can make your membership donation into any of our three funds:
- Student Publications Legacy Fund, a non-endowed fund to address immediate or urgent needs.
- Student Publications Fellowship Fund, a non-endowed fund that pays for summer internship experiences for promising students.
- Student Publications Endowed Fund, an effort to raise an endowment of at least $3 million to provide long-term support.
For details and to sign up, go to www.WKUStudentPubs.com/student-publications-memberships. While you’re there, check out information on our new Student Publications Endowed Fund and our Legacy and Fellowship funds.
The Endowed Fund is at the center of an effort to create an endowment to benefit Student Publications, with a goal of having $3 million committed by 2024-25, which marks the centennial of student-led journalism at WKU.
Why are we reaching out for support?
Student Publications has been hit by a financial version of the perfect storm:
- Advertising, which was doing well before the pandemic hit, is down close to a third. Some of our largest community advertisers have gone out of business, and those that remain are watching their pennies.
- WKU’s university-wide budget cuts have left departments and programs that once were regular advertisers with no money to purchase ads.
- As part of WKU’s budget cuts brought on by a variety of factors, including declining state support, Student Publications had to cut more than $34,000 permanently this year from its two university-funded budgets – for operating the office and for publishing Talisman – and another roughly $15,000 in one-year cuts related to shortfalls because of the coronavirus.
As you know, the Herald receives no money from WKU for its operating expenses – paying students, printing and distributing the newspaper, maintaining the website, etc. WKU does allocate money to Talisman and funds the salaries and benefits for the six professional staff, as well as some office expenses, for a total of a little over $550,000 this year.
Because of a combination of WKU budget cuts and increasing costs for health insurance and Kentucky’s underfunded pension system, the amount of university money available for running our operation, outside of personnel costs, has fallen from $216,023 in the 2012-13 fiscal year to roughly $69,000 in the current year, or a decline of 68%.
Total Herald revenues July 1 through Oct. 9 are $47,677. That represents a decline of 31% from the $69,420 in revenues at the same point in Fall 2019.
We are squeezing everything to cut expenses. Students have cut their own pay roughly in half at a time when going to college has never been more expensive. We’ve eliminated all travel money and non-essential expenses.
For example, we did not enter the Kentucky Press Association’s yearly contest this year because we couldn’t afford it. We were able to pay for gas and lunch for two students who covered the WKU football game at Middle Tennessee only because a recent alum made a donation to cover the expense.
Despite these challenges, our students are doing exceptional work. They just landed a record five national Pacemaker Awards finalist honors, for the Herald (newspaper), the Talisman (magazine), WKUHerald.com (online), WKUTalisman.com (online) and Cherry Creative (innovation).
We are finalists in every category we entered in the Associated Collegiate Press’ Pacemaker competition (which, thankfully, carries no additional entry fees).
You know the value working at Student Pubs has in honing skills and building a network. I’m sure you understand the challenges we face. We hope you’ll help keep that track record going by becoming a sustaining member at the level you can afford.