Projector wants autonomy

Red River College’s campus paper makes bid to break free from students’ association

Matt Preprost (right), editor-in-chief of The Projector, stands with sports editor Kalen Qually (left). Preprost is leading the paper in a bid for autonomy from the Red River College Students’ Association. Cindy Titus

The Projector is seeking freedom. The Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA) board of directors heard the Red River College campus newspaper’s bid for autonomy on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The Projector editor-in-chief Matt Preprost and Canadian University Press (CUP) president Rob Fishbook headed the presentation, explaining the reasons for autonomy in their appeal for independence from the students’ association.

“There’s a lack of long-term commitment [from the RRCSA],” Preprost told The Uniter. “They’re disengaged and disinterested in the publication.”

The main goal in becoming an autonomous paper is to increase credibility, as well as heighten the student body’s connection to the paper. Preprost provided a tentative business plan for the RRCSA, which included a proposed $2 student levy per semester for operating costs, as well as a $30,000 advertising credit from the RRCSA, which would cover start-up costs for a newly autonomous Projector.

The current CUP president was a one-time editor-in-chief of The Fulcrum, University of Ottawa’s newspaper, which he led to autonomy.

“It was based a lot on advertising,” Fishbook said.

The main problem for a non-autonomous student paper is the inability to develop a long-term business strategy.

Business management for the RRCSA is focused on various finances for a wide variety of school endeavours and is not solely focused on The Projector. According to Preprost, if the business manager has multiple projects to deal with, there’s often not enough attention directed at the business of the paper.

The Projector‘s editor-in-chief from last year, Melody Rogan, encountered numerous issues with the RRCSA.

“We had no control over the advertising, no control over the printing process and no control over the hiring and general operation processes. We had to operate out of a small section of a classroom that, while we could always have access to it, was noisy and not at all private,” Rogan said.

RRCSA advertising director Guy Lussier believes he’s doing the best he can for The Projector with the money the RRCSA has.

“If you have a budget of $20,000, you try and cut corners as best you can,” Lussier said.

A major benefit of an autonomous paper is the assurance of full editorial freedom.

“In terms of freedom of the press, we [CUP] believe in absolute freedom,” said Fishbook.

The RRCSA believes that editorial autonomy is not an issue at The Projector.

“It’s so clear that we have no say in what they write,” said Jeff Long, vice-president of the RRSCA at the Princess Street campus.

Rogan disagrees, citing conflicts with the students’ association over published material.

“In one issue we had a review of a new restaurant that opened near the Princess Street campus and the advertising director was pissed off that we hadn’t instead done a review of a particular restaurant that advertised in the paper,” Rogan recalled. (Lussier says he wouldn’t go so far as saying he was “pissed off,” but that he did recommend Projector staff talk to some of the businesses that advertise in the paper about reviewing their establishments before reviewing places that don’t advertise in The Projector.)

Long is not opposed to autonomy, but argues that the paper will lose a lot of support from the students’ association even though they will have more money to work with. Long believes The Projector should work towards their goals with the RRCSA’s support before going autonomous and cutting those business ties.

Published in Volume 64, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 25, 2010)

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