Despite a line item of “Student Publications” listed as part of an $800,000 student activities budget, President Robert Zeigler and Dr. Robert Vela, vice president of student affairs, reiterated their support May 2 for The Ranger as the sole college newspaper.
Student life Director Jorge Posadas said that if the student activity fee is raised from $1 to $2 in spring 2013, the “student-run” newspaper would begin in fall 2013 and require $70,000 for operation and travel expenses plus an unspecified amount to hire a coordinator.
But his bosses do not see a need for it.
Zeigler said May 2 he understood the student activity fee budget to only allocate funds for brochures and newsletters from campus clubs and organizations.
He said he did not see the purpose of creating a publication from the student activity fee.
“We’ve got one newspaper,” Zeigler said. “I don’t see the point in replicating that.”
Vela said he will seek clarification about the student activity fee funding a second newspaper.
“If that is the intent, that is not the direction we would want to go,” he said May 2.
“We have no intentions to start or endorse some other form of a student-led newspaper,” he said. “In our eyes, The Ranger is the student newspaper, and it does a fantastic job reporting the news for us.”
He continued, “The Ranger is the official student newspaper. We are not going to duplicate that.”
The college president must approve expenditures of the Student Activity Fee Committee.
Posadas on Friday would not comment on administrators’ lack of support for a student life publication. “I do not comment on the administrators’ decisions or their viewpoints,” he said.
Posadas said April 30 the “student-run” newspaper would focus primarily on online production and students would be paid to submit stories and photos.
Posadas said three Top 10 national newspapers reported earnings, but declined to name them.
“You’re going to have to do your research on that,” Posadas said.
Efforts to get Posadas to clarify what he meant were unsuccessful.
Though he suggested using NASDAQ for research, he could not comment on Friday if he used it as a point of reference. “I can’t say,” he said.
Posadas said an online publication format has more readership than print. “Formats are changing … Paper isn’t really where readership is,” he said. “I guess you also have to look at newspapers in general,” he said. “Who reads newspapers?”
Posadas said few students read The Ranger. “Well, I’m in the student center, and so I see students all day long, and most of them don’t even know there’s a student newspaper,” he said Friday.
“The readership of The Ranger is faculty, staff and district administrators — very few students — but that’s just a guess; no students ever ask me about something that came out in the newspaper,” Posadas said.
He noted conversation with Marianne Odom, media communications chair and Ranger adviser.
“Ms. Odom could not tell me the makeup of her readership. I don’t know an editor alive that can’t tell me the makeup of the readership of their magazine. They know it to the ZIP code,” Posadas said.
The Ranger prints 6,000 copies weekly and distributes them in 32 newsstands around campus, Odom said.
Until the district’s “pony express” distribution system was disrupted by district changes, copies also were sent to the other campuses and district offices.
Odom said Posadas asked her how many students read The Ranger, not the makeup of the readership.
“I don’t know exactly how many students read The Ranger each week any more than student life can tell us how many SAC students read The Current each week,” Odom said.
Posadas said $12,000 of the student activity fee goes toward advertising for events in The Current, an alternative weekly.
Previously, he has said he advertises student life events in The Current because no one reads The Ranger; however, he also has frequently claimed that the public is not allowed on campus — which is false — and that student activity fees must be used only for students.
In one more contradiction, many of those ads have included an admission fee for the general public.
Dr. Hsiang Iris Chyi, journalism professor at University of Texas at Austin, researched online readership and print readership among students ages 18 to 22. She surveyed 198 college newspaper advisers in 2011.
According to Chyi, “Approximately 93 percent of college newspaper advisers indicated that college students preferred the print edition. Only 7 percent said students preferred the Web edition.”
Reasons students prefer print newspapers, according to the study, include accessibility in campus buildings and libraries; the tangibility a print newspaper provides; and the students’ habit of picking up copies while walking around campus.
The notion of a student life publication came up in the wake of news in February a petition calling for an investigation into The Ranger’s reporting practices, signed by representatives of various clubs and organizations, for which student life maintains oversight.
Though the petition did not cite individual Ranger stories, its list of grievances included typos, factual errors and “false representations with an abject failure to print corrections and retractions.”
Further, it claimed, “Those who wish to declare open dissent into any printed portion of The Ranger are either rejected or printed in a neutered fashion, wherein the voice of dissent is weakened.”
Students spending time to create a petition voicing opposition to The Ranger shows they read the publication.
“I’m not going to debate logic with you, because I’m not,” Posadas said Friday.
He said campus leaders only represent a small portion of the entire student population.
“I think that if we took a poll of the entire college, then, A, they would probably be surprised that there was a college newspaper. Two, maybe they wouldn’t be interested in your practices,” he said.
Posadas said the main difference between a “student-run” newspaper and The Ranger is that the “student-run” publication would not be a laboratory newspaper.
Posadas said because The Ranger is a laboratory newspaper, “You’re writing for a grade; you’re writing for a class.”
Odom said, “Most college newspapers serve as a laboratory function in that students get to practice what they learn in classes. However, at the same time, they also serve their college communities by providing news and information targeted toward that audience.”
Odom said much of The Ranger’s content is created through classes, but the staff of The Ranger is made up of student editors who submit applications and are interviewed by the Student Publication Board.
Student life is invited to participate in board interviews but has not sent a representative in the last few years. Posadas participated in his first year as student life director.
Odom continued, “A large percent is created by editors, who, beyond their class requirements, or who don’t even have the class requirements, but they’re required to do that as part of the stipend they earn for being editor.”
Odom said Ranger reporters allot substantial amounts of time to the reporting process.
“We could never pay them enough, nor give them enough academic credit for all the hours that they do that because they want to learn, they want to have good clips, and they genuinely want to serve the public by providing information,” she said.
Posadas said he understood Ranger stories “often get changed, and final approval is set up by the faculty — as it should be — because it is a class.”
He said Friday a coordinator with journalism experience would be hired, and the coordinator’s salary would come from the “staffing” line item of his proposed $800,000 student activities budget.
Posadas said the $70,000 listed in the budget for the student publication would go toward operation, printing and travel costs.
Posadas called a laboratory newspaper, such as The Ranger, a “controlled environment.”
“Free and independent newspapers tend to have a global point of view,” Posadas said.
“The school isn’t a real-life experience. The school isn’t a world experience,” he said.
Posadas said Friday, “A free and independent student newspaper isn’t told what to report on. You all (Ranger reporters) are given a beat, right? And your beat is SAC.”
Posadas said reporters writing for a student life publication could write about whatever they choose.
“A free and independent student newspaper could go anywhere. … No one tells them — they say what their beat is,” he said.
However, Posadas then said a student editor would determine national, state and international beats for reporters.
Faculty members determine beats for Ranger reporters, he said, “because it’s a laboratory paper. It’s an exercise.”
Ranger reporters are assigned areas of coverage called beats throughout the college and district and are required to submit news tips for those beats each week.
Posadas said the stories students write for a student life publication will focus on events outside of an academic setting. “Depending upon the specialist we hire … they’ll do stories that are meaningful globally, meaningful to the city of San Antonio … probably less about how much a chess piece costs, or why does so-and-so travel so much. It’s a little bit more of a broader scope,” he said.
Posadas referred to stories The Ranger has written about expenses in the student life budget.
Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, Posadas has frequently been hostile to Ranger reporters, once threatening an editor with a charge of stalking and, another time, telling the editor he would assess a fee in exchange for an interview.
That incident won him inclusion in the Texas Monthly’s Bum Steer awards and ridicule in national sites from The Poynter Institute to Huffington Post.
At an April 5 Student Activity Fee Committee meeting, the committee approved a proposed $800,000 student activities budget, to be presented to Zeigler.
Though Posadas and psychology sophomore Jacob Wong, Student Government Association president, said the idea for a student publication came from student input from SGA events and Presidents Round Table events, neither was able to determine when the idea for a student publication was created nor the names of any specific students.
Nor is there any mention of such a project in The Ranger’s coverage of Presidents Round Table meetings.
Vela said May 2 the four other district colleges have not prepared budgets reflecting a doubling of the student activity fee in time to be approved for the start of the fall semester, and he expects the budget will remain at $1 per credit hour of enrollment per student.
“We know students want it,” Posadas said. “We know that journalism students want it. Journalism students — many journalism students — are like, ‘I don’t want a lab paper. I want a paper where my voice gets heard.’”
Posadas would not specify Friday if the complaints came from Ranger reporters.
“They came to me in confidence,” he said.
“I am supportive of students having the right to express themselves,” Odom said. “However, I don’t think I could support student activity fees being doubled to contribute to a student life newspaper when the activity fee does not support the nationally recognized student newspaper the college already has.”
Wong said he supports the idea of competition between a student life publication and The Ranger.
“There’s a drive for excellence, to excel. … It just kind of brings all the best to the top of those publications,” Wong said.
Odom sees it from a different perspective.
“I think it’s curious that The Ranger has reported on lapses in judgment in the Student Activity Fee Committee once those meetings were open,” she said. “The Ranger has had a very difficult time getting information from student life. So, I think it’s very curious that they would be interested in starting their own paper.”
For more information, call the office of student life at 210-486-0125.
To register for journalism classes, visit the office of media communications in Room 204 of Loftin Student Center for advising or call 210-486-1786 to make an appointment.