N.C. State University's 90-year-old student newspaper, the Technician, is struggling to find enough editors and may be on the verge of shutting down.
The situation is so dire that the paper ran an editorial Wednesday begging students for help "regardless of age or experience."
"Without student support, the paper could cease publication at the end of the semester. ... Today's paper was only in the stand because of what the staff would describe as a printing miracle," the editorial said.
The paper was already missing key editors last month when the top editor, Ty Johnson, was suspended from his job for violating a university policy, said Russell Witham, the editor who wrote the piece about the paper's plight. Then, the managing editor quit to take an internship.
Worse yet, there is no replacement for Johnson in the pipeline for the next academic year. The Student Media Board of Directors was supposed to hire a new Technician editor Tuesday night. Under the traditional timetable, that would have given the incoming editor a month and a half to shadow the current editor, then time to piece together a core staff before taking over for the weekly summer school editions of the paper.
No one applied to become top editor, though. So instead of hiring a new editor, the board appointed a former Technician editor to lead a committee that will make recommendations about the future of the newspaper.
The student body president, Jim Ceresnak, who will be on that committee, said the newspaper is part of the glue that holds together the more than 30,000 students and the widely different colleges of the state's largest university.
"I can't allow the newspaper to close, and we as a university can't allow that to happen," he said.
Editors, former editors and the university staff adviser who oversees the paper cited a host of issues that have made it harder to fill key jobs, including the long work hours required and a general sense that, given widespread layoffs in the journalism industry, perhaps students' time would be better spent doing something else.
Among other things, the new committee will make recommendations about retooling the editor's job to make it more attractive. Options include reigning in the mandatory hours from 35 a week and spreading the duties around, said Bradley Wilson, coordinator for student media advising and the university's adviser to the newspaper staff.
Johnson said he was suspended because his grade point average for the fall semester was below the minimum of 2.5 that students in leadership positions must maintain. He said that he had expected to simply be given a work plan to get his grades up, as he had when they dipped last spring. Instead, he said, Wilson and other professional staff on the paper decided to suspend him.
Wilson, the adviser, said the suspension shocked the rest of the staff and may have made some reconsider applying for the editor job.
"Suddenly everyone was focused on academics, and it was like, wow, my grades could drop, too," he said.
Wilson said that the newspaper's problems have become a major topic on campus and that once the editor's job is retooled he's sure it will draw applicants.
"All student groups have rebuilding years, like certain basketball teams in the area," he said. "It's not a throw-out-the-baby-with-the bathwater year, it's a rebuilding year."
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