August 22, 2014 - 11:42 AM
KELOWNA – The Phoenix, UBCO’s 25 year-old campus newspaper, is being removed from campus.
The move is part of the UBCO student union's (UBCSUO) re-allocation of space in the UNC, which will see Resource Centers merged and new businesses added.
“It just comes down to the utilization of space,” UBCSUO President Rocky Kim said, “we have to maximize opportunity with what we have, and the problem is The Phoenix being there is not the best utilization of space as of right now.”
The UBCSUO is self-imposing a space audit; to prepare for it, all the spaces used in the UNC are being reviewed. Kim said the paper has historically been a financial drain, running yearly deficits that eat up additional UBCSUO funds.
“Our main concern was we’ve set aside 'x' number of dollars that students agreed to through a referendum to pay for media on campus… but what’s happened (is) The Phoenix has been running deficits, so not only are they getting that money but they’re dipping into SU funds and we’re carrying that liability.”
Kim said The Phoenix was approximately $16,000 over-budget at the start of the 2014 summer. A large portion consisted of uncollected advertising revenue, however, and by the end of July the sum sat around $10,000.
Alex Eastman, who was recently hired by The Phoenix as their first full-time non-student staff member, was also the Managing Editor in 2013-14. “We’re negotiating a way to deal with that now in a way that doesn’t hamstring us financially,” Eastman said. He noted they were not alerted to these problems until mid-July, though Kim said the discussions to remove The Phoenix had been going on for five months. Eastman said the paper had an onus to recognize these financial problems earlier on as well, though. The UBCSUO runs all of The Phoenix’s financials out of their accounting office since they are a part of the union.
“We’ve been working directly with Bob (Drunkemolle),the General Manager, and we’re having this consultation more as a business than a student club or association,” Eastman said. Part of the reasoning he was given by the UBCSUO was that the SU wanted to charge more rent for the space, and if they charged The Phoenix commercial prices then the paper wouldn’t have been able to afford it. To put that in perspective, The Phoenix had been expected to pay $8,000 per year for their office space each year, while The UBCSUO will be charging $70,000 to Koi Sushi and a brand new Taco Del Mar outlet, which will replace the old Valley First office.
Other space re-allocations include the Pride Centre and the Women’s Centre joining to share the old Phoenix office, while their old spaces will be used for business storage and for Student Union Productions, a new service that will offer Student Associations a one-stop-shop for everything needed to run events. A full-service RBC will also be added on next to the Taco-Del-Mar. The Peer-Support-Network is now an official UBCSUO service, and it will also be run alongside both Resource Centers in the old Phoenix space.
Eastman will now run The Phoenix out of his apartment in Rutland, while trying to book as much space on campus as possible on an ongoing basis for meetings.
Another complication for The Phoenix is the media fee. The total amount (over $40k) has always gone to The Phoenix, but it is now likely to be divided between them and the promising radio club start-up Heat Radio. The Phoenix ran a referendum in 2014 in an attempt to increase and separate The Phoenix’s fee from the media fee, but it failed.
“To put it bluntly, not having an office and having less money…is a pretty big blow to our operations,” Eastman said. “It will be harder to recruit and maintain contributors, and we won’t have an office for staff to go.” Eastman said event coverage will be more difficult, since their photographers used to use the office as a base to cover Well events and others. They would store their equipment and they would return to use the paper’s software to do post-production. Now that office is a drive or a bus-ride away.
Eastman said the UBCSUO, especially their General Manager Bob Drunkemolle, is assisting in locating a new space on campus, though no details are available at this time as to when or where that may be. Kim said it relied upon Eastman coming back in a couple months with a stronger business plan and budget, and then they would then look at new space options. Computers and server data were all given to Eastman to use in the relocated office.
The financial impact on The Phoenix is significant. Their budget is expected to drop 27 per cent to $58,000 from $81,000. They have cut seven paid staff positions, combined other positions, and have switched some pay models for more volunteer-focused or contractual-focused positions. The budget for wages at The Phoenix is cut by one-third in total. They have gone from 16 issues to 14 issues, and those will be maximum 24 pages with fewer color trays. The volume of papers distributed each issue will not change from 2,000.
“It’s going to take everything I have just to keep the trains running and our heads above water while we try to sort all of this out,” Eastman said, “It’s great that we have the support of the SU to stay functional and operational.”
Eastman is now doing his full-time job at the paper for free, and getting $300 per month for the space taken in his apartment to contribute to his rent. He is also working another 40 hours a week elsewhere to be able to pay his own expenses. His only direct income from the paper is $150 per issue to distribute the 2,000 copies around university and town.
“Last year we took so many steps forward with the paper…at our national conference we were considered a rising star,” Eastman said, “That’s the disheartening thing about this, the development of our staff and our paper will probably, though I hope not, take a back seat to ‘how much money did we make this issue’.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014